Which state has witnessed twice the incidence of tuberculosis since refugees began arriving?

Which state has witnessed twice the incidence of tuberculosis since refugees began arriving?
Image: Puwadol Jaturawutthichai/Shutterstock

According to Barack Obama, refugees bring cultural enrichment to the regions of the U.S. that they emigrate to. But that’s not all they bring.

Newly arrived refugees have doubled the incidence of tuberculosis in the state of Texas, Watchdog.org has learned.

The Department of State Health Services said 1,238 refugees, asylum-seekers, Cuban parolees, human-trafficking victims, and holders of special immigrant visas tested positive for TB.

Texas typically reports 1,200 to 1,300 active TB cases annually, DSHS said.

DSHS spokesman Chris Van Deusen said the positive screenings by refugees could indicate latent TB infections.

“They have been exposed to TB and have the bacteria dormant in their body. It does not indicate that they are sick with tuberculosis and capable of spreading it,” Van Deusen said.

But the federal Refugee Health Program runs initial health screenings, but does not follow immigrants long-term, so the agency doesn’t have data on whether any have progressed to active tuberculosis.

Individuals who test positive for TB in Texas are referred to local health departments or DSHS regional offices for further assessment and treatment, Van Deusen said.

“People with latent TB infection don’t present a risk to the public because they cannot spread the disease to others. Following through with the recommended treatment of antibiotics should eliminate the infection so it will never develop into active disease,” he added.

Some 950 refugees settling in the Lone Star State tested positive for TB — 16.8% of the refugee arrivals from Oct. 1, 2014, to Sept. 30, 2015.

Overall, 10.9% of the refugees, asylum-seekers, Cuban parolees, human-trafficking victims and holders of special immigrant visas tested positive in Texas.

U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith , R, told Watchdog:

The rising incidence of tuberculosis in Texas is another reason we need to secure our border. Americans should not be put at risk by illegal immigrants.

The Obama administration’s fast-tracking of refugees — with a goal of bringing 10,000 Syrians to the United States by September — could mean more cases on the way.

“The Obama administration has developed ‘alternative legal pathways’ for refugees in order to circumvent the numerical targets of the refugee resettlement program,” Nayla Rush, a senior researcher at the Center for Immigration Studies, has written.

With a goal of accepting 100,000 refugees this fiscal year, the U.S. is on a pace to boost refugee resettlement by 40% over last year.

In another border-related health move, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday requested $11 million from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assist the fight against the Zika virus, entering the country from Central and South America. Read Abbott’s letter here.

Read more by Kenric Ward at Watchdog.com.

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent and writes for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Formerly a reporter and editor at two Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, Kenric has won dozens of state and national news awards for investigative articles. His most recent book is “Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas.”

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