March 25, 2002
Minnesota was among 20 states that saw an increase in TB cases last year, a coalition of more than 80 national public health organizations said. In more than 50 percent of the cases nationwide -- and 81 percent in Minnesota -- the infected persons were born outside the United States.
The National Coalition for Elimination of Tuberculosis issued its report last week in Washington and warned that the numbers could rise unless the nation spends more money on prevention and treatment efforts. Although TB cases fell to an all-time low in the United States in 2001, the decline appears to be leveling off, according to the CDC.
"Tuberculosis anywhere in the world is a cause for concern here," coalition spokesperson Philip Hopewell said. About 2 billion people -- one-third of the world's population - are infected with the TB bacterium. This means that TB in Somalia or Southeast Asia or anywhere can find its way to Minnesota, said state epidemiologist Harry Hull.
In Minnesota last year, 194 of the 239 cases reported affected foreign-born persons. Overall, the number of cases jumped 34 percent from 178 cases in 2000. The 2001 figure is Minnesota's largest since the early 1970s, said Wendy Mills, director of the state's Tuberculosis Prevention and Control Program. TB is "not a risk to the general public at this time," Hull said. "But if we don't deal with it thoroughly and competently, there is a risk it could spread to other folks and pose a great danger."