Tuberculosis comes to Minnesota

Whatever happened to tuberculosis? I remember being tested for it in grade school in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. I remember reading about it in The Magic Mountain in college. It’s been a long time since I worried about it.

The CDC reviews trends in tuberculosis in this fact sheet. Doing the work that the Star Tribune won’t do, Michael Patrick Leahy reviews the Minnesota Department of Health study The Epidemiology of Tuberculosis in Minnesota, 2010-2014. This therefore comes as news to me:

Two hundred and ninety-six refugees were diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB) between 2010 and 2014 in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

Seventy-one were diagnosed within one year of their arrival, while 225 were diagnosed after the first year, but within five years of their arrival.

The number of active TB cases reported among refugees arriving in Minnesota is ten times higher than reported in any of the fourteen other states that have released refugee TB data to the public, or made it available to Breitbart News.

When it comes to contributing foreign fighters to ISIS (mostly Somali Minnesotans, as I point out here) and importing tuberculosis, we’re number one. And it turns out there is a correlation: “Twenty-nine percent of the 593 foreign-born cases of active TB diagnosed in Minnesota, or 161, were attributed to Somali born migrants.”

Seeking a comment on the results reported, Leahy elicited this somewhat evasive and wildly self-congratulatory assessment from the department of health:

The data you are referring to, showing 50% of the 593 foreign born residents of Minnesota diagnosed with TB arrived as refugees, represents years 2010 – 2014. The majority of those refugees actually developed TB disease after being in Minnesota at least five years, and many had been in the US at least 10 years, so these are not new arrivals to the US.

The presence of other medical conditions is the chief risk factor for the activation of TB disease in a person with latent infection (and remember, a third of the world has latent TB infection). These conditions include diabetes, cancers, immune suppressing medications, and renal disease. These are conditions common with the American diet and lifestyle, and new risk factors for these refugee populations. Tuberculosis can be treated with antibiotics.

Often times the reason that Minnesota reports TB and other infectious diseases at higher rates than other states is because we have a stellar system of surveillance and screening. From 2010 – 2014, in addition to their overseas screening, 99% of our primary refugee arrivals completed an additional health screening within 90-days of their arrival in the US. If you look at national surveillance data in 2014, states with a lower percentage of foreign-born cases arriving as refugees often have a higher percentage of unknown or missing data.

So maybe it’s as bad elsewhere as it is in Minnesota! It only appears otherwise — maybe — because we’re so so good!

It’s almost funny.