Deadly Lung Disease Cases Surge to 10-Year High, Children Most Affected: CDC

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The vast majority—76 percent—of cases in the United States in 2023 were in non-U.S.-born persons.

U.S. cases of tuberculosis, a deadly infectious disease that typically strikes the lungs, have soared to their highest level in a decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with the largest relative increase among children.

After 27 years of declining tuberculosis rates in the United States, cases of the disease started to climb again in 2020—and they’ve continued to rise every year since, the CDC said in a March 28 report.

In 2023, tuberculosis case counts jumped by 1,295 from the prior year to 9,615, the agency said. This represents an increase of 16 percent and is the highest level since 2013.

While the CDC expected cases to rise, the extent of the increase came as somewhat of a surprise to the agency.

Dr. Philip LoBue, director of the CDC’s Division of Tuberculosis Elimination, told The Associated Press that the 2023 case count was “a little more” than expected.

Tuberculosis incidences increased in every age group in 2023 compared to the year prior, but for reasons unknown children aged 5–14 experienced the largest relative increase—42 percent.

Infections Most Common Among Non-US-Born Individuals

The vast majority—76 percent—of tuberculosis cases in the United States in 2023 were in non-U.S.-born persons.

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Among 9,573 tuberculosis cases in persons for whom birth origin was known, 7,259 occurred among those who were born outside the United States, the CDC said. This represents an 18 percent increase compared to 2022.

Tuberculosis, which is caused by a bacteria that typically attacks the lungs, is one of the deadliest infectious diseases in the world.

Nearly 4,400 people globally die each day from tuberculosis, which is spread through the air when someone is infected with the disease sneezes or coughs.

The United States has one of the lowest rates of tuberculosis in the world, but the CDC said in its report that the uptick in cases means that capacity should be strengthened in public health programs to carry out “critical disease control and prevention strategies.”

California With Highest Number of Cases

As was the case in 2022, California reported the highest number of tuberculosis cases in 2023, with 2,113 infections.

Alaska reported the highest infection rate, at 10.6 per 100,000 people.

An estimated 85 percent of the people counted in 2023 were infected at least a year or two earlier and had what’s known as latent tuberculosis. This is when the bacteria enters the body and hibernates in the lungs or other parts of the body, and then becomes reactivated.

Health experts estimate as many as 13 million Americans have latent tuberculosis. People with latent tuberculosis don’t feel sick or have any symptoms, nor can they spread the bacteria to others.

The CDC says that, in order to prevent transmission and reduce fatalities, the disease must be detected quickly and treatment must be initated promptly.

Last November, California health officials said that at least 10 cases of tuberculosis were linked to a casino in Contra Costa County.

“TB can live inside someone for years without showing signs of its presence,” Dr. Meera Sreenivasan said of the disease, according to an earlier report from The Epoch Times.

“That is why it’s important to take a test, even if you do not feel sick. TB can cause serious illness, but it is treatable and curable with medicine, especially when caught early,” he added.

In another widely reported incident, an outbreak of tuberculosis cases at a migrant shelter on Cape Cod was the subject of an alleged coverup.

Types of Tuberculosis And Symptoms

Tuberculosis can be categorized into different types based on its stage (active versus latent) and the part of the body it affects (lungs or outside the lungs), with the two main categories being pulmonary and extrapulmonary.

Pulmonary tuberculosis is an infection involving the lungs, though this form of the disease can also spread to other organs.

Extrapulmonary tuberculosis originates in organs outside the lungs and never enters the lungs. This type often arises from the spread of infection through the bloodstream or directly from other organs. Unlike the type that involves the lungs, extrapulmonary tuberculosis is generally not contagious.

While latent tuberculosis is asymptomatic, people with the active form of the disease typically have symptoms that include chills, fever, profuse night sweats, weight loss, general malaise, loss of appetite, weakness, and fatigue.

Pulmonary tuberculosis also often involves difficulty breathing, chest pain, persistent cough lasting over three weeks, swollen glands, and sore throat.

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