New York City grapples to rein in rising tuberculosis cases

New York City has already confirmed about 500 cases of active tuberculosis this year, and understaffed clinics have led to long waits for diagnosis and treatment, Politico reported Oct. 4.

Tuberculosis has been relatively scarce in the U.S. since the last time it peaked in the 1990s, but the recent outbreak in New York City could foreshadow a possible resurgence, the report said. There are 20 percent more cases in the city currently than from the same time last year and the rate of infection is on track to exceed last year's 536 newly diagnosed patients.

Since the last peak, departments have cut funding and staff dedicated to controlling the disease. Employees of the city Department of Health's Bureau of Tuberculosis Control said wait times for treatments at city-run clinics is "worryingly long." The average wait time for an appointment at one of the city's three remaining TB clinics is two to three days, but some patients wait over a week for medical evaluation.

A shortage of technicians has led to the department tapping a private company to provide staff to perform chest X-rays, according to Politico. Although most patients are diagnosed in an emergency room and start treatment at the hospital, the agency oversees patient care during the monthslong treatment regimen. At any given time, the clinics treat about 1,000 patients with active or suspected tuberculosis.

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