Tuberculosis on the rise. Illustration
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TB in Israel: Spike amongst refugees, immigrants

Some 400 tuberculosis cases reported in Israel in 2008, marking slight rise from previous year. Fifth of TB patients are refugees, transient workers – double numbers within this population since 2004

The rate of tuberculosis patients rose slightly from 2007 to 2008, according to statistics published by the Ministry of Health on occasion of World Tuberculosis Day celebrated on Tuesday. During 2008, nearly 400 new tuberculosis cases (5.5 cases out of every 100,000 people) were listed, in comparison with only 386 (5.4 cases out of every 100,000 people) the previous year. Nearly a fifth of the cases appear among refugees and transient workers.


After the rate of tuberculosis infection dropped slightly in 2003, recent statistics show the disease is on the rise again. One of the difficulties in testing and treating tuberculosis in Israel is the intake of the worker and refugee population arriving from Sudan, considered one of the areas with the highest relative incidence of the disease.


Research done by Dr. Alex Leventhal and Dr. Zohar Mor from the Ministry of Health shoes that 10% of tuberculosis patients in 2004 were not permanent residents of Israel. This number rose to 18.1% in 2008.


The researchers estimated that there are some 200,000 transient workers in Israel, both with and without visas, who are only partially insured or not insured at all by health insurance programs. The workers can receive free treatment at nine tuberculosis treatment centers operated by the Ministry of Health throughout the country.


Problem that can't be ignored

"Even without a clear policy on the issue, the health system cannot ignore the large of number of residents without official status and health insurance knocking on its doors in times of need," wrote researchers, noting that treatment imposes high costs on the state. "The Health Ministry continues to shoulder the NIS 800,000 (about $200,000) cost of hospitalizing tuberculosis patients who do not have health insurance."


The Ministry of Health is holding a conference on Thursday "Refuge-seeking Immigrants: New Health and Social Challenges in Israel."


Dr. Daniel Shem-Tov, head of the Health Ministry's tuberculosis and AIDS department, noted that the rate of TB patients who are not permanent residents of Israel rose further in 2008.


"There is immigration of people coming from areas endemic of tuberculosis and other diseases. The number of tuberculosis cases among their ranks is not small. In the western world, it has been proven that the moment one treats tuberculosis wisely and opening, infection and higher rises in the disease are prevented," Dr. Shem-Tov said.


Tuberculosis is a bacterial lung disease and is considered highly contagious. Some 2 million people worldwide die from the disease every year. The World Health Organization in 2003 declared tuberculosis to be a global emergency.


Tuberculosis treatment requires six months of antibiotics. Stopping treatment pre-term is likely to result in the reappearance of the disease as well as the development of more potent, antibiotic-resistant strains of the tuberculosis bacteria.


פרסום ראשון: 03.27.09, 10:27
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