Florida: TB Cases May Be Dropping but Danger Is on the Rise
April 8, 2002
Tuberculosis cases may be on the decline nationwide, but, in Florida, the threat of the airborne illness may never have been greater. Recently released numbers suggest the country has recovered from a resurgence of TB in the late 1980s, but Florida's large and growing population of those at high risk is reason to worry, health officials say.
Those at highest risk include the elderly, those infected with HIV and people born in countries with TB epidemics -- all populations well represented in Florida. "TB is not gone in the rest of the world," said Michael Iademarco, an associate director for science at the CDC. "In fact, there is more TB than there ever was." CDC officials say complacency often comes with declining TB numbers and is the very thing that makes the United States vulnerable to another outbreak. Roughly 80 percent of TB -- the second-leading infectious disease killer in the world -- occurs in 23 countries, including Vietnam, Haiti, Mexico, the Philippines, India and China. "Those are the countries where we get a lot of immigrants from," Iademarco said. "We need to stay on top of the ball in terms of getting their TB detected and treated."
So far though, the news has been good. Nationwide, 16,377 cases of TB were reported in 2000 -- a 6.6 percent decrease from 1999 and an all-time low. In Florida, 1,171, cases were reported, an 8.6 percent decline from the previous year. In Central Florida, 168 people were infected in 2000. It was the sixth consecutive year of TB decline in the state, which remains fourth in the country for the number of cases. But Florida is also a major US entry point for people from countries in South and Central America where deadly strains of drug-resistant TB are prevalent. "If it doesn't affect a person, they think it's gone away," said Heather Duncan, a health advisor at the Florida Department of Health who works with refugees to prevent TB. "But that certainly is not the case with TB."
04.07.02; Stephanie Erickson
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.