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Employees August 10, 2009

TB outreach effort catches positive cases early

In response to the high incidence of positive tuberculin skin tests in the immigrant population, the YNHH Winchester Chest Clinic launched a tuberculosis outreach program in 2004. Since then, the program’s outreach nurse has skin-tested approximately 500 immigrants a year. Most of them are adult students in English as a second language (ESL) programs in New Haven and surrounding towns.

The outreach program has discovered as many as 150 ESL students a year with latent tuberculosis infection and referred them to the Winchester Chest Clinic for follow-up care. Over the years, the clinic has identified three cases of active tuberculosis and was able to start the patients on treatment before they developed symptoms.

With a Spanish-speaking assistant, Mengqing Lai, RN, Winchester Chest Clinic tuberculosis outreach nurse, provides tuberculin skin testing and health education to students in Branford, Hamden and New Haven. She maintains tuberculin testing records and makes sure students keep follow-up appointments and medication compliance visits.

New Haven’s large immigrant population includes people from countries at high risk for TB. While immigrants undergo mandatory screening for pulmonary TB prior to receiving a visa, they don’t necessarily undergo tuberculin skin testing or receive treatment for latent TB if they test positive. YNHH’s TB outreach program fills this important public health gap.

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