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Despite National Decline, in NYC Tuberculosis Ticks Upward

Thursday, March 20, 2014

After a decades of decline, tuberculosis is on the rise, slightly, in New York City.

Newly released figures show a 1 percent increase in the city last year — even as rates continued to drop nationally.

The uptick in tuberculosis does not suggest a new epidemic, said Dr. Jay Varma, from the city's Health Department — but he is concerned about the multi-year trend.

“What we’ve been seeing for the past few years is the rate of decline, the decrease, is not as steep as we’d like it to be,” he said.

While tuberculosis is widespread in some areas of the globe, it is now relatively rare in the United States. The disease is contagious, but treatable.

Varma said the Health Department needs to work more with doctors whose patients come from countries where tuberculosis is more prevalent, especially because more people carry the latent form of the disease than the active one. Both forms can be treated effectively, but active tuberculosis can be fatal among people whose immune systems are compromised. With the right screening, latent tuberculosis can be detected and cured before it becomes active.

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