Monday, December 28, 2009

The New Threats

I think people are worried about the wrong things. First case of highly drug-resistant TB found in US - Yahoo! News Sure, we have to be afraid of people blowing up planes, and we have to make sure that system works. But it isn't the only threat.

First there was multi-drug resistant TB. (MDR-TB) Then there was extensively drug resistant TB. (XDR-TB) Now we have extremely drug resistant TB. (XXDR-TB)

For the long story, read the article. The short story is that a kid from Peru came to the US to study English. He had XXDR-TB. It cost $500,000. to treat him over 2 years - he was in an honest-to-gods sanitarium (that is a facility for dealing with TB) from most of that time.

I think it was money well spent.

Once upon a time, doctors thought that TB had been conquered. They were sadly mistaken. TB by itself, isn't a problem. It only costs about 100 bucks to cure it. It does take 6 months, and if treatment is stopped - hey he was feeling better! - for any reason, then the disease is likely to mutate and become drug resistant.

The WHO estimates every MDR-TB patient will infect 10 to 15 people. Think about how fast that could spread. It is an airborne disease.

TB kills a lot of people every year, mostly in poor countries, but also in rich ones. It will get worse before it gets better.

So if he had been in this country illegally - he was legal - do you think we would spend that money? Do you think we would have a choice? And were does most of the TB in America come from, anyway?
About 60 million people visit the U.S. every year, and most are not screened for TB before arrival. Only refugees and those coming as immigrants are checked. The top category of multidrug-resistant patients in the U.S. — 82 percent of the cases identified in 2007 — was foreign-born patients, according to the CDC.

The results are startling among those tested, said Dr. Angel Contreras, who screens Dominicans seeking to enter the U.S. on immigrant visas. The high rate of MDR-TB in the Dominican Republic coupled with high HIV rates in neighboring Haiti are a health crisis in the making, he said.

"They're perfect ingredients for a disaster," he said.

Juarez's homeland, Peru, is also a hotspot for multidrug-resistant TB. DNA fingerprinting linked his disease to similar strains found there and in China, but none with the same level of resistance.
No stats on how many of those "foreign-born patients" are here legally versus how many are here illegally.

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