TB cases halt arrival of Hmong refugees

THE BALTIMORE SUN

MINNEAPOLIS - Active cases of tuberculosis among newly arriving Hmong immigrants to the United States have prompted a temporary halt to the latest wave of refugees coming from Thailand, State Department and health officials said.

A 19-year-old in Minnesota has a confirmed case of the bacterial lung disease, and four other unrelated Hmong immigrants in the state are suspected to have contracted tuberculosis, according to Kris Ehresmann, an expert at the Minnesota Department of Health.

There are four confirmed cases in Wisconsin, a handful in California and several more at the Wat Tham Krabok refugee camp in Thailand, where 6,000 of the 15,000 residents resettling in the United States are awaiting flights.

Those journeys will resume after tighter screening and treatment procedures are put in place and health officials are satisfied that they have a handle on the situation. The resumption of resettlement is at least six months in the future, the experts say.

That's because of the amount of time it takes to treat tuberculosis.

Dr. Marty Cetron, director of global migration for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that the agency will send six doctors to Thailand this weekend to investigate.

Tuberculosis is largely treatable and curable, although it usually takes from six to 12 months to get rid of the disease.

"The public need not be alarmed," Ehresmann said. "We're geared up for this and will follow up on all cases."

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