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US tuberculosis cases rise for third year in a row: CDC

Tuberculosis rates in the U.S. rose by 16 percent in 2023, marking the third year that cases went up following nearly 30 years of decline.

In the most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of TB cases in 2023 totaled at 9,615, a jump of 1,295 over 2022.

The last time annual TB cases in the U.S. were higher than 9,500 was in 2012, when 9,906 were detected. As the report noted, TB cases had declined for 27 years, reaching a record low of 7,171 in 2020 before creeping back up.

TB is a bacterial infection that can attack any organ in the body, though it usually strikes the lungs. Some people don’t develop symptoms after infection, having what is referred to as latent TB.

“Forty states and DC reported increases in 2023 in both case counts and rates. National case counts increased among all age groups and among both U.S.-born and non-U.S.–born persons,” the report read.

California reported the highest total number of cases at 2,113, while Alaska reported the highest rate at 10.6 per 100,000 people. Despite this, the study noted the U.S. still has one of the lowest TB rates globally. Roughly 85 percent of TB cases in the U.S. are believed to be a result of latent TB being reactivated as opposed to recent transmission.

Among the patients whose birth origin was known, 76 percent of tuberculosis cases in 2023 occurred in non-U.S. born people. This marked an increase of 18 percent for this demographic.

When it came to the U.S.-born who were infected with TB last year, a third were Black; 27 percent were Hispanic; 26 percent were white; 6 percent were Asian, 5 percent were American Indian or Alaska Native; and 3 percent were Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.

While there is a vaccine for tuberculosis, the CDC notes that it’s mostly used in countries with a high prevalence of TB and isn’t recommended for use in the U.S. due to low risk of infection.

In a January report to Congress, the United States Agency for International Development attributed the rise in TB cases globally to the disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After two years of COVID-19-related disruptions to TB prevention, diagnosis, and treatment efforts, 2023 had the highest number of people diagnosed and started on treatment since the beginning of the disease’s global monitoring in 1995 that affected access to and provision of health services – due in part to concerted efforts to recover from the pandemic’s devastating global impact,” the agency said.

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