Dec 20, 2012 3:19 PM GMT
“We cannot be safe in the U.S.” while drug-resistant TB is an “epidemic in the rest of the world,” said Barbara Seaworth, medical director of the Heartland National TB Center in San Antonio. Outbreaks are “absolutely” possible in the U.S., said Dr. Seaworth, who has treated hundreds of patients with drug-resistant strains.
Tuberculosis, an airborne disease characterized by the coughing of blood, is one of the world’s great killers. In some developing countries, drug-resistant strains are rampant. A doctor in India this year startled the global health community by finding patients carrying a particularly dangerous strain—one all but incurable. The Wall Street Journal in November detailed how long-standing global strategies for fighting TB have unintentionally helped make the disease harder to cure.
Most drug-resistant cases are imported into the U.S. by foreigners arriving from places where the disease rages. Of 124 multidrug-resistant cases in 2011, 106 were in foreign-born individuals, the CDC says. Most cases are in California and Texas, many along the border with Mexico. Cases come from Mexico, Vietnam, and India, among others. The U.S. doesn’t vaccinate against TB because there is no vaccine considered widely effective for adults.