More Than One-Third of Refugees in Vermont Test Positive for Tuberculosis

Bruce Parker, Watchdog, June 2, 2016

Data from the Vermont Department of Health show that more than one-third of refugees resettled in Vermont test positive for tuberculosis.

Since 2013, about 900 refugees admitted to the Green Mountain State have been tested for tuberculosis, a potentially fatal infectious disease affecting the lungs. Of that number, 318 refugees, or 35.4 percent, tested positive.

Watchdog.org obtained the health data on Wednesday following reporting by Stateline that the disease may be making a comeback in the United States.

Refugees brought to the United States undergo TB tests as part of comprehensive health screenings. State health departments track the data to monitor cases and protect against public health crises.

According to IGRA (Interferon-Gamma Release Assays) blood test results from 2013 to the present, the highest percentage of incoming refugees to Vermont infected with TB occurred in 2013. That year, 108 refugees out of 248 tested, or 43.6 percent, showed positive for TB.

Test results showed slight improvement in subsequent years, with 34 percent of incoming refugees having TB in 2014 and 32 percent showing positive in 2015. Children under age 5 are excluded from the results, as they undergo tuberculin skin tests, or TSTs.

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Refugee resettlement is facing fresh scrutiny after President Obama pledged to admit 100,000 refugees to the United States, up from the prior cap of 70,000. As distinguished from immigrants, refugees are people who have fled their countries due to war or persecution.

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