New York Marks 'World TB Day'

Tuberculosis Remains Public Health Threat in State

Albany, N.Y. (March 24, 2009) - In recognition of 'World TB Day' today, State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D., reminds New Yorkers that tuberculosis (TB) remains a public health threat, with cases of TB reported in all regions and all age groups in the state in 2008.

New York State's 1,200 cases of TB in 2008 was the third-highest behind California and Texas, and reflected a 2 percent increase over 2007. Worldwide, TB is among the leading causes of death from infectious disease, with approximately 2 million deaths each year.

"New York has made great strides toward preventing, treating and controlling the spread of tuberculosis," said State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. "But this day reminds us that we still have much work to do to eliminate this potentially deadly disease. The state and local health departments, physicians, health care facilities, and laboratories must continue to work together to prevent and control TB and educate New Yorkers about the risk."

Reducing the TB case rate to no more than 1 case per 100,000 New Yorkers by 2013 is one of the goals of New York's 'Prevention Agenda Toward the Healthiest State.' New York State's case rate for 2008 was 6.3 cases per 100,000 New Yorkers.

Today is the 127th anniversary of Robert Koch's discovery of the cause of TB -- tubercle bacillus – a bacterium that is usually spread from person to person by coughing or sneezing. TB usually affects the lungs with symptoms that include chronic cough, chest pain, and/or coughing up blood. TB can also affect other organs, with symptoms that can include weakness, fatigue, weight loss, fever, and night sweats.

Transmission of TB can be prevented by effective treatment and follow up. Early diagnosis is critical so that individuals can be treated and persons with whom the patient has had contact can be evaluated. Individuals with compromised immune systems from conditions such as HIV, cancer, renal insufficiency, or diabetes are at higher risk for TB.

Commissioner Daines said New Yorkers with concerns about TB should contact their health care provider or local health department, which provides free and confidential testing and treatment to individuals without health insurance.

Facts about TB in New York State in 2008:

  • TB cases were reported in all regions of the state and in all age groups.
  • Statewide there were 1,200 cases of TB in 2008, a 2 percent increase over 2007.
  • 76 percent of cases were among persons born outside the United States, reflecting the high burden of TB in Latin America, East Asia, Africa, and the Indian subcontinent.
  • In New York City there were 895 cases, for a rate of 11.2 cases per 100,000, a 2 percent decrease from 2007 and a 21.3 percent decrease over the last five years.
  • In the 57 counties outside New York City, 305 cases (2.8 cases per 100,000 population) were reported, a 17 percent increase from 2007. But overall there has been a 10 percent decrease in cases over the last five years.
  • More than half (56 percent) of the cases outside New York City were reported in three counties: Nassau, Westchester, and Suffolk.
  • Only 2 cases of TB were diagnosed in the state prison system in 2008, reflecting effective detection and treatment efforts. The prison system reported 75 or more TB cases each year in the early 1990s.
  • In 2008 12 cases of multi-drug resistant TB were reported, compared with 20 to 30 cases of multi-drug resistant TB annually in recent years. Patients with drug-resistant TB must be treated for longer periods with less effective drugs.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s New York experienced a spike in TB cases, peaking in 1992 with more than 4,500 cases. Effective control measures led to a 62 percent decrease from 1992 to 2000. Overall, TB cases decreased 31 percent in the last 8 years.

Local health departments play a critical role in ensuring effective diagnostic tests, infection control, patient management, and contact investigations.

More information on TB can be found on the New York State Health Department Web site: