Expert: Vermont Official ‘Grossly Irresponsible’ in Downplaying Refugee TB Danger

A laboratory technician tests sputum samples for tuberculosis strains. File.
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Dr. Jane Orient tells Breitbart News: “It is grossly irresponsible for a public health official to be cavalier about the introduction of even one case [of active TB] in her jurisdiction.”

Vermont State Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso recently attempted to downplay the risk to public health posed by high rates of active tuberculosis (TB) and latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) among Vermont’s 6,300 refugees.

Dr. Orient is Managing Editor of the Journal of American Surgeons and Physicians and a clinical lecturer in medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. She tells Breitbart News Kelso’s comments are “irresponsible” and “cavalier”:

Because of its easy transmissibility (you can catch it on the bus), TB is one of the most serious health threats. One nurse or one visitor to the labor and delivery suite who turns out to have active TB can require identification and testing and tracking of dozens or hundreds of contacts.

Latent TB is there for life and can activate at any time resistance breaks down (say a course of treatment for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, or cancer).

There is no good vaccine, and treatment is at best prolonged, difficult, and expensive.

Imported TB is far more likely to be resistant to multiple drugs, or even all drugs.

“TB is one of the most lethal diseases and likely has killed as many people as any other plague in history. It was controlled in the US only with tremendous effort,” Orient adds.

“People with latent TB need frequent monitoring, as with chest xrays, and all who care for them or employ them need a high level of awareness,” Orient concludes.

As Breitbart News reported on Monday:

During the thirteen and a half year period between January 1, 2003 and June 30, 2016, 17 of the 6,300 refugees in Vermont were diagnosed with active TB, or one out of every 370 refugees. During that same period of time, 26 of the average 620,000 U.S-born residents of the state were diagnosed with active TB, or one out of every 23,846 U.S.-born residents of the Green Mountain State.

Refugees developed active TB in Vermont at a rate more than 60 times greater than U.S.-born residents.

But Kelso, an employee of the Vermont Department of Public Health, told Vermont Public Radio on Thursday this high rate of tuberculosis among refugees is “not a concern of mine as the state epidemiologist.”

“We will continue to see refugees with latent TB infection [LTBI] and we will continue to see, in rare cases, active TB illness in refugees – like we do all the time in U.S.-born Vermonters,” she added.


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