The tuberculosis infection rate in the United States dropped by 2.2 percent in 2014 — the smallest decline in a decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While the TB case rate is still declining, the rate has slowed down, the center noted in a report released on Thursday. The incidence rate remains the highest among those born abroad, who often become infected with the bacteria outside the U.S. Their infection rate is 13.4 times higher than that of U.S.-born individuals.
“Continued progress toward TB elimination in the United States will require focused TB control efforts among populations and in geographic areas with disproportionate burdens of TB,” the report said.
Cities with large immigrant communities such as New York City are currently battling an uptick in the number of TB cases. In February, health officials issued an alert and identified an outbreak of TB among young adults born in China and residing in the Sunset Park neighborhood. There had been 15 cases detected by the end of the month, according to Mike Frick, TB/HIV project officer at Treatment Action Group (TAG), an activist organization.
The CDC noted that Asians continue to be the minority groups with the largest number of TB cases. The TB rate among Asians was 28.5 times higher than non-Hispanic white people and eight times higher than black or Hispanic individuals.
Thursday's report follows federal budget cuts in TB research, according to Frick. The CDC decreased its funding for TB research by $2.5 million in 2013 to about $16 million. About $676 million was spent on TB research globally, about a third of the $2 billion experts say should be spent each year on TB research, Frick added.
In 2012, 1.3 million people died of TB, according to the World Health Organization(WHO), making it one of the deadliest diseases in the world.
Tuberculosis can be cured with antibiotics, but the treatment can be a long, complex process, with increasingly drug-resistant strains developing around the world. Last year, only one case in the U.S. involved an extensively drug-resistant strain of the bacteria, compared with four in 2013.