Tuberculosis outbreak hits Sunset Park
The New York City Department of Health is dealing with a tuberculosis outbreak in Sunset Park, according to officials.
Fifteen tuberculosis cases have been identified in the neighborhood since 2013, but seven of those cases have occurred since last September, representing a troubling spike, officials said.
The outbreak of tuberculosis, also known as TB, appears to be centered on young adults born in China who either live in Sunset Park or have links to the community, according to an information sheet provided to the Brooklyn Eagle by the Dept. of Health (DOH).
All of the patients have drug-susceptible, pulmonary tuberculosis, meaning that they are responding to treatment.
Some of the common characteristics of the patients: they are all males who frequently use internet cafes and work in out-of-state restaurants. The median time from the onset of tuberculosis symptoms to the start of treatment has been 28 days, officials said.
Residents are at higher risk for infection if they have spent time around a person with active tuberculosis disease; come from areas with high TB rates, including mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and had a recent prolonged stay in a country with high TB rates.
The DOH has alerted local hospitals and medical clinics to warn health care providers to be on the lookout for anyone who comes in displaying TB symptoms. The symptoms include fever or cough that lasts for several weeks, night sweat and weight loss.
TB is an infectious disease that usually attacks the lungs, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. It is spread through the air when people who have an active infection cough, sneeze or transmit respiratory fluids through the air.
“The Health Department is working collaboratively with local health care providers, community organizations and others to identify TB transmission and facilitate prompt health care-seeking among people with TB symptoms and potentially-exposed individuals,” the DOH said in a statement.
Health care professionals throughout Sunset Park are being encouraged by the DOH to refer patients exhibiting symptoms for TB testing. The testing includes a medical evaluation consisting of the patient’s history and a physical examination, a chest radiograph or other imaging studies of the site of the disease; and the collection of specimens.
Confirmed cases of TB are to be reported to the DOH within 24 hours of diagnosis.
Assemblymember Felix Ortiz (D-Sunset Park-Bay Ridge) co-sponsored a free TB screening with the DOH and the city’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation that took place on April 18 in the Sunset Park Recreation Center. Patients who needed further TB evaluation were referred to a DOH Chest Center to be treated at no cost, regardless of immigration status.
A list of chest center locations and services is can be found on the DOH website at http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/diseases/tbcc.shtml
“The health and well-being of our community is a top priority. I want to ensure the safety of our residents. We will take full preventative measures to maintain a safe and healthy community,” Ortiz said in a statement.
The patients who have been diagnosed with TB include immigrants who work long hours in out-of-state restaurants and who remain in enclosed areas for lengthy periods, Ortiz said.
Dr. Bing Lu, a physician at Universal Medical Service in Sunset Park said that “accumulative stress from travel and long-hours reduces people’s immunity to disease.” Spending time in closed quarters, such as crowded apartments, or Internet cafes, “facilitates the incubation of disease,” Lu said.
Ortiz also contacted local health care professionals, schools and community-based organizations to make them aware of the outbreak and to encourage them to take preventive measures to protect students, patients and employees.
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