Chicago Tribune Examines Efforts To Control TB Among U.S. Immigrants From Mexico
The Chicago Tribune on Monday examined tuberculosis among U.S. immigrants from Mexico and efforts to control the disease along the U.S.-Mexico border. According to the Tribune, TB rates have increased in Mexican communities along the U.S.-Mexico border, prompting concern among health officials that the disease could spread as immigrants enter the U.S.
CDC reported 13,299 TB cases nationwide in 2007, half the number reported in 1993, but TB cases along the U.S.-Mexico border have increased during the same time period. TB cases have increased by 10% since 2007 in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, which borders Texas, and TB rates in McAllen, Texas, are three times the national average, according to the Tribune. In addition, Mexican immigrants account for 18% of reported TB cases in Illinois, although they make up 6% of the state's population.
In response to the increased TB rates, public health officials in Texas and Mexico in the 1990s developed a binational approach to address the disease, the Tribune reports. Texas provides TB medicine funded by U.S. taxpayers under the program, which aims to treat TB among immigrants before they travel within the U.S. Health officials in Texas and Mexico also share information about patients they know are crossing the border so they can continue to administer DOTS. Despite these efforts, multidrug-resistant TB has increased among some immigrants. Brian Smith, regional director of the Texas Department of State Health Services in the border city of Harlingen, said some immigrants with MDR-TB have received treatment in Texas hospitals. Texas health officials have enrolled many of the MDR-TB patients in the binational program and have offered to send TB medication to Mexico if the patients agree to stay there while completing treatment.
William Clapp, director of Chicago's TB program, said he is concerned TB treatment could fuel discrimination against immigrants. Smith said, "Whatever your opinion is on undocumented immigration, we have to focus ourselves on public health," adding, "[I]f we don't treat TB the right way, society pays" (Avila/Ramirez, Chicago Tribune, 2/16).