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Tuberculosis Cases Rise In US After 23-Year Decline

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For the first time in 23 years, tuberculosis incidence in the United States increased in 2015, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The last increase was in 1992.

Tuberculosis is the most infectious killer disease in the world. The District of Columbia and 29 states in the United States reported an increase in the rate of this airborne disease.

In particular, the United States had a total of 9,563 tuberculosis cases last year, 157 more than the reported cases in 2014. In terms of per capita rate, tuberculosis is now infects three out of every 100,000 people.

Among the 2015 tuberculosis cases, more than half were clustered in the following states: Florida, Texas, New York and California. These states account for one-third of the entire country's population.

In particular, Texas' 2015 tuberculosis cases were 1,334, showing a 5 percent surge from 2014. As for South Carolina, the state had 104 tuberculosis cases in 2015, showing a staggering 32 percent surge from the previous year.

"The leveling-off means that we're not moving towards TB elimination. It's at a low level, one of the lowest levels in the world, but our goal is to eliminate TB," said Dr. Philip LoBue, the director of the Division of Tuberculosis Elimination at the CDC.

National Tuberculosis Controllers Association Executive Director Dr. Donna Wegner said the rise in tuberculosis rates must drive a quick funding increase to help fight the disease across the United States. The current trends revealed that they have maximized the existing resources. Wegner added that the increase should be viewed as the legislators' failure in funding the disease's prevention initiatives in the country.

A limited budget means difficulty in dealing with tuberculosis outbreaks. For instance, an inadequate budget means it will be harder to isolate patients, trace the people they may have infected and ensure they get adequate treatment, which is often expensive.

Tuberculosis treatment and management are often difficult, especially when other factors such as homelessness, substance abuse and incarceration are at play. Some tuberculosis patients also suffer from other health conditions such as diabetes.

According to the 2015 Global Tuberculosis Report from the World Health Organization, the disease caused 1.5 million deaths in 2014 around the world. The WHO report also found a $1.4 billion shortage in the global budget for tuberculosis treatment as well as a $1.3 billion research funding deficit.

Photo: Alan Light | Flickr

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