NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The American Lung Association today urged the Administration to reverse plans to cut funding to fight tuberculosis, warning that proposed budget cuts for fiscal year 2006 will damage the ability of state and local health departments to control the disease.
"The American Lung Association urges Congress to approve $77 million above FY05 levels to fight tuberculosis, for a total of $215 million for FY06. Now is not the time to cut federal support," said John L. Kirkwood, president and CEO of the American Lung Association.
On March 24, the international health community marks World TB Day to raise public awareness about the continuing global threat posed by tuberculosis, which infects one-third of the world's population and kills more than two million people each year. There were 14,511 confirmed cases of tuberculosis in the United States in 2004, a 3.3 percent decline from 2003. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that during 1993-2002, the United States saw steady declines in annual TB rates, with an average decline of 6.6 percent. However, annual declines for 2003 and 2004 were the smallest since 1993, raising concern that progress toward eliminating tuberculosis in this country may be slowing.
"The history of TB control in this country follows a pattern. When we provide funding to fight tuberculosis, the rates go down. As the rates go down, we become complacent and funding levels are cut. Then the TB rates begin to go up again," said Norman Edelman, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer of the American Lung Association.
"We saw a dramatic increase in TB cases in the late 1980s when we became lax about TB control. Without continued, stable funding, we could face another upswing in cases," he said.
TB rates in the United States continue to be disproportionately high among people with HIV or other immune deficiencies, prisoners, the homeless, the foreign-born, blacks and Hispanics. Hard -to-treat strains have emerged that are resistant to current TB drugs.
Recent TB developments include -
-- Hidalgo County, Texas: TB testing was recommended for 400 elementary
school students after a substitute teacher died with symptoms of
-- Allen County (Fort Wayne), Ind.: Twenty-five people were diagnosed with
active tuberculosis in 2004, triple the eight cases normally reported in
the county. The county health commissioner said her TB office's lack of
resources was partly responsible for the increase.
-- At least 25 confirmed TB cases were reported among Hmong refugees from
a single camp in Thailand who resettled in California, Wisconsin and
Minnesota. Some of the cases were drug-resistant, making them far more
difficult and costly to treat.
-- San Francisco: A local hospital notified 92 surgery patients who
might have been exposed to tuberculosis because equipment used to
administer anesthesia was not properly sterilized.
-- Carson City, Nev.: Nearly 14,000 prison inmates and staffers were
screened after some individuals tested positive for exposure to
-- Milwaukee, Wis.: Sixty-four people who visited a pulmonary diagnostics
clinic had to be screened after possible exposure to a patient with
-- Conway, S.C.: A university student was treated for possible active
tuberculosis, prompting the testing of others on campus.
-- Marion County (Indianapolis), Ind: Approximately 2,600 members of the
Jewish Community Center were notified after possible exposure to a person
with active tuberculosis.
-- Cameron County, Texas: More than 80 Head Start students were tested
after officials learned that a staff member may have contracted
"These incidents are alarming proof that tuberculosis is still with us," said Edelman.
Source: American Lung Association