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Hmong Immigrants and TB in Fresno
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February 03, 2005, 09:41 PM
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The announcement that Hmong refugee dumping, er, resettlement was being halted temporarily because of tuberculosis received only a moderate amount of press coverage. A Google News search for "Hmong TB OR tuberculosis" on 2/3 got 111 hits, giving a rough assessment of its perceived media interest.

However, an even bigger story from a public health viewpoint was that some of the Hmong refugees have the drug-resistant form of TB. But just a dozen news articles as of 2/3 carried this item and mostly in papers in affected communities. One would think that a more dangerous public health threat might merit increased attention, but that has not been the case.

The Fresno Bee carried some welcome cost information about treating TB:

It can cost $20,000 per patient to treat someone with the common form of tuberculosis, Royce said [Dr. Sarah Royce, chief of the Tuberculosis Control Branch at the California Department of Health Services]. Treating drug-resistant TB can cost 10 times more than that, she said.

California has received around 3,000 Hmong refugees since June 2004, many of whom went to Fresno. There have been 20 confirmed cases of TB among those, at a minimal taxpayer cost of $400,000, not even considering the more expensive drug-resistant variety.

Fresno`s unemployment rate for 2004 was 11.6 percent, so the price tag on the many social services required by high-maintenance Hmong is of great concern. No Fresno public official has had the grit to say "Stop already," though, as their counterparts have done in Lewiston, Maine, and Cayce, South Carolina. And of course, no citizen wants politicians importing drug-resistant tuberculosis or any other kind of TB on the taxpayer tab.