Immigration and tuberculosis in Harrisonburg, Virginia
According to Virginia Department of Health documents, Harrisonburg’s TB rate was 4.9 per 100,000 people in 2005, compared to a rate of 1.6 in the Northwest Region of the state.
The health department and public officials attribute Virginia’s recent increase in tuberculosis to immigration.
In the last three years, Harrisonburg’s rates have dropped dramatically, but they are still higher than all other cities in the region.
The Northwest Region includes Augusta, Bath, Highland, Rockbridge and Rockingham counties. Page and Shenandoah counties are in the Central Shenandoah District. That district had a rate of 1.9 cases per 100,000 people. According to the report, Harrisonburg’s rate was 12.1 in 2003 and 9.7 in 2004.
Harrisonburg’s rate of 4.9 exceeded that of any city in the region. Waynesboro was the region’s only other city with a rate above 2 per 100,000, with a rate of 4.7.
Harrisonburg’s rate was also higher than the state’s rate of 4.7
Statewide, the 2005 TB rate increased 8 percent from 2004 — from 4.4 cases per 100,000 people to 4.7 — but the region’s rate decreased from 2.3, to 1.9.
Dr. Margaret Tipple, director of the health department’s Division of TB Control, said the numbers are getting better, but more improvement is needed.
"The region is taking good steps, but there is still a long way to go," she said.
The study attributes the increase to the rise of foreign-born residents in Virginia.
"In 2005, 225 or 63.4 percent of the Virginia’s TB cases were reported among foreign-born persons," the report says. "These cases represent 45 countries of origin and speak 19 languages other than English."
Tipple said increases in TB cases were prevalent in the Northern Region of the state, where the immigrant population has grown dramatically in recent years.
"A large influx came to Northern Virginia after 2000," she said. "Now, more foreign-born people have TB than U.S.-born."
According to the report, Virginia’s Northern Region has the most cases of TB out of all the state’s regions.
The Northern Region — which includes the Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William districts — had a rate of 9 cases per 100,000.
"The numbers in that region are getting bigger," Tipple said. "Now, the number of foreign-born people with TB is larger than those born in the United States."
Each year since 2001, the study shows, more than 60 percent of all TB cases in Virginia came from those who were born outside the United States.
Tipple says illegal immigrants have higher risk factors than do those who enter the country legally.
Today, she said, people seeking legal citizenship must prove that they are free of communicable diseases.
Steve Camarota, director of research with the Center for Immigration Studies, said that while the Hispanic population has increased dramatically in the last five years, many of those immigrants could be here illegally.
"It’s extremely likely that at least half of the immigrants in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County are there illegally," he said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2005 American Community Survey, the Hispanic population in Rockingham County is 3,016, up 36 percent from the 2,221 in the 2000 Census.
Illegals Spreading Deadly Diseases