Foreign-Born Cases of TB Increased Eight Percent in North Carolina Last Year; More Refugees Planned for Asheville

tuberculosis - TB
AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

The number of foreign-born cases of active tuberculosis (TB) increased 8.3 percent in the Tar Heel State last year, from 84 in 2014 to 91 in 2015, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition, one of the leading resettlement agencies reportedly plans, in cooperation with the Obama administration, to increase the number of refugees sent to Asheville, North Carolina, the resort community in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Ironically, that area was a center for the treatment of tuberculosis between the 1890s and the 1950s, prior to the successful introduction drug treatments for the highly infectious disease.

Overall, the number of active TB cases in the Tar Heel State increased by 2 percent, from 195 in 2014 to 199 in 2015.

Nationally, the number of active TB cases increased 1.7 percent, from 9,421 in 2014 to 9,563 in 2015.

The percentage of North Carolina’s active TB cases that were foreign-born increased slightly from 44 percent in 2014 to 46 percent in 2015, still below the national rate of 66 percent of active TB cases in 2015 that were foreign-born.

North Carolina has consistently been a state with a high rate of refugees resettled on a per capita basis, a point President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential contender aren’t expected to mention while campaigning there.

In 2015, 2,475 refugees were resettled in the Tar Heel State, many of them from countries with high rates of active TB and latent TB infection, including Burma (865 refugees), Democratic Republic of the Congo (381 refugees), Bhutan (210 refugees) and Somalia (210 refugees).

In 2014, 2,443 refugees were resettled in North Carolina. The previous year, 2013, that number was 2,337. In 2012, 2,110 refugees were resettled in the Tar Heel State.

The effort to expand the number of refugees to the smaller community of Asheville began in North Carolina as secretively as it has in many other smaller communities (like Rutland, Vermont) across the country. As the Asheville Citizen-Times reported last week:

A global aid and humanitarian organization is exploring the possibility of making Western North Carolina a resettlement site for refugees.

Representatives from the International Rescue Committee met with local residents at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation on Wednesday to discuss the feasibility of a preliminary plan to relocate 150 people fleeing persecution in their home countries to the Asheville region.
If plans move forward, the first household could come as early as next spring, J.D. McCrary, executive director of the IRC office in Atlanta, told the crowd of more than 50 people. Others would arrive over the ensuing 12 months, he said.

Ann Corcoran of Refugee Resettlement Watch warns that “[j]ust like everywhere else, the IRC [International Rescue Commitee] has been holding meetings and greasing the skids before word got out to the citizens of Asheville.”


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