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IDHW: Refugees did have tuberculosis but were not contagious; no longer have the disease

Posted at 4:24 PM, Jun 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-29 00:13:24-04

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare has confirmed that seven refugees sent to Idaho between 2011 and 2015 were diagnosed with tuberculosis after arriving. However, officials want to urge concerned citizens that none of the refugees were contagious and have been since treated.

In a post from the Department of Health and Welfare, officials explained how they screened the refugees upon arrival:

“They all had abnormal chest X-rays, which is typically how they are screened for TB in other countries, but they tested negative for contagious disease in three separate sputum cultures after they arrived in Idaho. Even so, they all received immediate treatment and were monitored by public health officials to make sure any TB would be killed that their lungs might harbor. Refugees are not allowed to leave their country if they are contagious from active tuberculosis. After a refugee arrives in Idaho, they go through an assessment process that covers immunizations, health screenings including TB screening, and referrals to medical providers for any conditions that need treatment. They are monitored very closely through the Division of Public Health’s Refugee Health Screening Program to protect public health. More than 4,500 refugees arrived in the state during the last five years.”

“Refugees receive multiple medical screenings both before and after they arrive for their own health as well as for the health of the general public,” said Dr. Christine Hahn, M.D., state public health medical director and TB physician. “We don’t take TB infection lightly, and neither do the refugees. They are eager and extremely cooperative about getting treatment for any health condition that needs to be addressed. Public health officials monitor their treatment daily and follow up with them to make sure it is completed.”

According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Idaho typically has 10 cases of active TB a year with “one or two” from the refugee community. Currently, five cases are being treated in the state as of June 2016, but none are refugees.

Officials say that the last big outbreak of tuberculosis occurred in the Treasure Valley in 2008 among the homeless population.