TUBERCULOSIS: IOM Recommends TB Tests for Immigrants
The Institute of Medicine issued a report yesterday, calling for U.S.-bound immigrants from countries with high tuberculosis (TB) rates to be skin-tested before receiving their green card, the USA Today reports. Although TB rates in the United States have declined 46% among U.S.-born residents from 1992 to 1999, the number of cases among foreign-born people rose from 27% to 43% (Sternberg, 5/5). Current rules require would-be immigrants to obtain a chest X-ray and receive treatment for active cases of TB before entering the country. The new report calls for skin tests to detect latent infections, which, if left untreated, can flare into contagious illness years later. Immigrants testing positive for latent TB strains would be allowed to enter the country, but would be required to treat the infection before receiving their permanent visas. Morton Swartz, professor at Harvard Medical School and chair of the IOM panel, said that without these new precautions, "the disease could come back with a vengeance and exact a heavy price." The panel also recommended tripling the amount of funding for TB research, increasing foreign aid to countries battling high rates of TB and "streamlining the network of public health programs for detecting and treating [TB] cases" (Washington Post, 5/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.