Chinese Immigrants In Sunset Park Struck By Tuberculosis Outbreak

(Puwadol Jaturawutthichai/Shutterstock)

At least 15 people in Sunset Park have contracted tuberculosis since June 2013. And health officials warn that young Chinese immigrants in the neighborhood are particularly susceptible to being stricken by the disease.
In a health alert this week, the Department of Health & Hygiene reported that "[a]n outbreak of tuberculosis is occurring among young adults born in China and living in, or linked to, Sunset Park, Brooklyn," adding that the victims were commonly male, frequently used Internet cafes and worked in out-of-state restaurants. At least seven of the identified cases have been confirmed since September

Tuberculosis cases have declined considerably in the United States over the past decade, with only 10,000 cases reported in 2012, 651 of which were in NYC. But 84 percent of the 656 people infected with TB in the city in 2013 were born outside the United States, and individuals born in China had the highest rate of infection.

TB is a bacterial disease that tends to attack the lungs, and health officials say it can be spread through the air, particularly when an infected individual coughs, sneezes or speaks. It is not easily contracted, but if you are in constant contact with someone who has TB, you can get sick—individuals with weak immune systems, particularly those who are HIV positive, are at a higher risk.

Symptoms include weight loss, fever, loss of appetite, and a persistent cough that lasts more than three weeks.

The Health Department provided us with a statement noting that they are "working collaboratively with local health care providers, community organizations and others to identify and interrupt ongoing TB transmission and facilitate prompt health care-seeking among people with TB symptoms and potentially-exposed individuals."

If you believe you may have TB, you can opt for a low to no cost screening at one of several chest centers around the city; visit the DOH's website for details.