Orange County Uses Mobile X-Ray to Screen Immigrants for TB
St. Joseph Hospital and the Orange County Health Care Agency are teaming up to increase X-ray tuberculosis testing among the county's immigrant population, the Los Angeles Times reports. The "unique" mobile X-ray service will be delivered through St. Joseph's Puente a la Salud program, which provides health care to the county's farm workers. The X-rays will detect whether tuberculosis is "active" in individuals who test positive for the disease, thus determining whether people are contagious. The screenings will be offered on Sundays, which program coordinators hope will encourage more people to be tested. Penny Weismuller, division manager for disease control at the Orange County Health Care Agency, said, "It's our way of reaching out to people who by the nature of their employment can't get paid if they (take a day off to) get a skin test. By working with Puente, they have a sense of trust. ... These people are in our community and we can help them." While tuberculosis rates have "steadily decreased" in Orange County, about 50% of the county's farm workers test positive for the disease, and health workers believe that the number of new TB cases among immigrants in the county is increasing. Nationwide, the CDC found that the proportion of total U.S. TB cases diagnosed in foreign-born individuals rose from 29.8% in 1993 to 41.6% in 1998. The Times reports that farm workers are especially vulnerable to the disease because they are often poor, live in close quarters and suffer from malnutrition and other illnesses -- conditions which "lend themselves" to the disease, Puente a la Salud Director Rocio Nunez-Magdaleno said. 267,000 people in Orange County have tested positive for tuberculosis (Mena, Los Angeles Times, 1/31).