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TB cases in Florida rise by 3 percent

It's the first increase in nine years, and the foreign-born account for about half the new cases last year, a state health official says.

Associated Press
Published March 25, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - After years of decline, the number of tuberculosis cases in Florida increased by 3 percent last year, state health officials said Thursday.

Officials say the increase is being driven largely by new cases in immigrant communities.

"That's the first increase we've seen in nine years," said Nancy Humbert, deputy Florida health secretary. "It is alarming that the percent of foreign-born cases has shown a steady increase."

Officials said nearly 15 percent of Florida TB cases are in the Haitian community, primarily in South Florida. Miami-Dade County had the highest number of cases in the state in 2004 with 268, followed by Palm Beach County with 99 cases and Orange County with 98.

About half the new tuberculosis cases were in foreign-born people, Humbert said.

The Department of Health also announced Thursday that it has received a $7.5-million grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to establish a Southeastern National Tuberculosis Center.

The center will be housed at the University of Florida in Gainesville, but it will coordinate with other facilities around the state, including the A.G. Holley State Hospital in Lantana, a nationally recognized TB center and the only freestanding TB hospital in Florida.

In this country, tuberculosis hasn't been a major health problem since the early 1900s. But elsewhere, it is still a big killer. More than 5,000 people die from the bacterial lung infection everyday around the world. More than half of the 9-million new cases diagnosed each year are in six Asian countries.

The disease can be passed from person to person through the air. It is treatable with medication.

The Florida data were released on World TB Day and coincided with a report from the World Health Organization that TB is on the rise worldwide. Besides Asia, cases in Africa are increasing in alarming numbers, the WHO report said.

Humbert said the Caribbean also has a high number of cases and that's where many of the immigrants bringing the disease to Florida are coming from.

[Last modified March 25, 2005, 01:00:17]

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