Tuberculosis Cases Among Immigrants Continue to Rise

  • By: Erin Billups
  • 5:30 AM

According to the City Health Department, immigrants make up most tuberculosis cases in the city with the overall number being more than twice the national rate. NY1's Erin Billups filed the following report.

About 8 percent of the patients tested for tuberculosis at Union Community Health Center test positive.

Katherine Cocca-Bates, a nurse practitioner and clinical coordinator for the center's occupational health services says it's affecting one group of New Yorkers in particular.

"A lot of our patients are born in a different country and come to the United States, so a lot of our patients have been exposed to tuberculosis or have received a vaccine against tuberculosis as a child," says Cocca-Bates.

While the overall number of TB cases in the city is down, eight per 100,000, it's more than twice the national rate at 3.2 per 100,000.

That's according to the city Health Department, which says that the number of immigrants with TB has been increasing. In 2011, 80 percent of cases were among the foreign-born. In 2012, it was 84 percent of the 651 cases.

"People who have been here for five years or less should be tested because they are at higher risk," Cocca-Bates says.

Cocca-Bates normally administers the TB test to those required to take it for work. The majority of her patients are from the Dominican Republic, other Caribbean nations, Central and South America, and Asia.

She warns that even if you have been in the U.S. for more than five years, if you've spent significant time with relatives or friends with active tuberculosis symptoms, you could also be at risk.

"Some of the signs of active tuberculosis disease are coughing, shortness of breath, coughing up blood, having night sweats, and fevers and chills," Cocca-Bates says.

You can also have tuberculosis with no symptoms, meaning it's latent or doesn't spread from person to person. However, latent TB can also become active.

"A really important thing is to make sure that people are in care with their primary care provider, and make sure that they're being monitored," says Cocca-Bates.

Free testing is provided at city chest centers. For more information, visit or

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