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Immigrants infecting Americans with drug resistant TB.


CofCC.org News Team

In a beautiful home filled with mementos of world travel, a 44-year-old Silicon Valley executive reluctantly picks up the telephone to tell several business contacts that he might have infected them with tuberculosis.

In a one-bedroom apartment in Oakland, a new mother feels her life slipping away. She is losing her hearing, her feet are going numb and her face carries a rash from the toxic drugs being used to fight the drug-resistant bacteria in her lungs. Her body has dwindled to 87 pounds and she wonders: Would my husband and infant son be better off if I was dead?

In Helena, Mont., the state’s tuberculosis official takes an urgent call from the laboratory and feels her stomach knot. She has a patient with a potentially infectious, dangerous TB strain – a case her state lacks the money and the medical resources to treat.

Those three small snapshots are all part of a global tuberculosis epidemic that threatens the Bay Area – with its web of international connections – like few places in the nation.

Call it one price of globalism.

Last year, tuberculosis increased in four of the Bay Area’s five largest counties, and the San Jose area in 2006 had the highest TB rate of any large American metro area, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health. San Francisco, after an outbreak of TB among Latino day workers in the Mission district, has the highest TB rate of any
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county in California – quadruple the U.S. rate.

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