TB decline in 2009 linked to economic crisis

A new study suggests that a larger than expected decrease in the number of tuberculosis cases reported in the United States in 2009 may be related to economic decline and lower immigration rates and may serve to mask the future impact of the illness.

Research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Public Health points to the expense of the six-to-nine month course of antibiotics used against TB as a factor in keeping patients from coming forward to be treated.

The U.S. National Tuberculosis Surveillance System has shown an average yearly decrease of 3.8 percent in the number of TB cases seen from 2000 to 2008. In early 2009, the rate dropped by 11.4 percent, though it returned to normal by the end of the year.

A team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention used patient information records and an analysis of changes in reporting procedures, in addition to the NTSS data, to determine that the largest decrease in the number of cases occurred in those of foreign birth who had moved to the United States within the last two years, the U.S.-born homeless and drug users.

The researchers are concerned with the drop because regardless of the economic climate, those with TB will eventually need medical care, and due to the delay in seeking help, the disease may become more severe, more infectious and more resistant to treatment.