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CDC: Asians, Pacific Islanders Have High TB Rates

June 5, 1987

ATLANTA (AP) _ More than 10 percent of the nation’s reported 22,201 tuberculosis cases in 1985 occurred among Asians and Pacific Islanders, federal health officials say.

The rate of TB among Asians was 50 cases per 100,000 people, nine times higher than the rate of six cases per 100,000 whites, the national Centers for Disease Control said Thursday in its weekly report.

However, according to scientists at the CDC, half of the TB cases among Asians and Pacific Islanders could be prevented - by giving TB infection tests to refugees and immigrants and offering preventive therapy.

The CDC noted that 45 percent of the Asian TB patients were under 35, the age group for which preventive therapy is routinely recommended for people infected with tuberculosis bacteria.

″These findings suggest that half of all tuberculosis cases among Asians (and) Pacific Islanders would be potentially preventable, if refugees and immigrants were given (TB) skin tests and offered preventive therapy ... shortly after arrival in the United States,″ the Atlanta-based agency said.

Nearly 50 percent of the foreign-born Asians and Pacific Islanders with tuberculosis became ill within two years after they arrived in the United States.

Tuberculosis, an infectious lung disease, is treatable in most cases through drug therapy. Scientists say millions of Americans are infected with the bacteria which cause the disease; most will never see the disease actually develop.

Hundreds of U.S. TB patients hail from Asian nations fighting widespread TB outbreaks. More than 600 Asian TB patients in 1985 were from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, while 595 were from the Philippines, 346 were from South Korea and 226 were from China.

An influx of refugees from Southeast Asia in 1980 caused a temporary increase in TB reporting in the United States. The percentage of TB cases in the United States attributable to such refugees has fallen from 5 percent in 1980 to 3 percent in 1985, although the risk of TB among Laotian, Cambodian and Vietnamese refugees remains high at 310 cases per 100,000 people, according to CDC statistics.

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