NEW YORK, March 25 (UPI) -- New York City, which battled a tuberculosis epidemic more than 20 years ago, had an 81 percent drop in cases in 2010 from the late 1980s, health officials say.
Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City health commissioner, says the city recorded 711 cases of TB in 2010 -- a 6 percent decrease from 2009. However, while the number of TB cases overall has declined, the percentage of cases among foreign-born people has risen.
"The health department provides excellent, free TB clinical services for anyone who needs them," Farley says in a statement. "We never ask about immigration status. Comprehensive treatment for TB is not only beneficial for patients, but it also benefits the community at large."
Dr. Chrispin Kambili, the health department's assistant commissioner responsible for TB control, says the city has done an excellent job fighting TB in the U.S.-born population.
Last year, 82 percent of the city's TB cases occurred in foreign-born New Yorkers. The top five countries of origin among foreign-born persons with TB were China at 15 percent, Ecuador at 6 percent, the Dominican Republic at 6 percent, Mexico at 5 percent and Bangladesh at 4 percent, Kambili says.
TB, a bacterial infection that spreads from person to person through the air, is not spread by shaking hands, sharing food or having sex, and brief contact with someone who is sick on a train or bus is unlikely to cause infection because TB typically spreads through close, daily contact, Kambili says.