- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

While national tuberculosis rates have reached a historic low, the District saw an increase in cases last year giving it one of the highest TB rates in the country.
The D.C. Health Department yesterday said the number of TB cases climbed 8 percent from 2001, due in large part to cases in the city's homeless population and in people with HIV.
City health officials hope to do a better job coordinating with people helping those groups by getting them to recognize symptoms and know where to get treatment. Symptoms include a persistent cough, fatigue, loss of appetite and night sweats.
Two-thirds of the 82 cases reported in the District in 2002 were in men, and 73 percent of the patients were unemployed.
"Although the rate of TB infections has declined by 44 percent since 1992, having one of the highest TB rates is unacceptable," said Stephanie Harper, the Health Department's chief health officer.
Nationally, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said 15,078 cases of TB were reported last year, a 5.7 percent drop from 2001.
The infection rates among the city's immigrants decreased slightly, but that was the main explanation for a 2 percent increase in neighboring Northern Virginia. Eighty-seven percent of the 177 TB cases there last year involve people born outside the United States.
"The problem is the disease, not the people," said David Debiasi, a tuberculosis consultant at the American Lung Association's Virginia chapter. "This area is a port of entry for immigrants. You just need one case of multiple-drug-resistant TB to cause a nightmare."
Mr. DeBiasi cautioned that without programs to get people free medication, they may go without it if they cannot afford it. He said the problem over time is that the disease can mutate into a more drug-resistant form.
Virginia is one of two states without a program for free medication.

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