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Nearly 2,200 immigrants and refugees headed for America have tested positive for tuberculosis under a more-sensitive exam that, before bolstering, would have missed the illnesses, U.S. health officials said Monday.
In 2012 alone, overseas physicians using the tougher screening identified 629 additional cases of TB among people bound for U.S. borders, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Immigrants and refugees applying for U.S. visas have, since the early 1900s, undergone TB checks. In 2007, the CDC began installing a sputum culture test for applicants. In that exam, physicians ask people to cough deeply and spit material from their lungs into a container. That sample, placed in a culture dish, is then watched for bacteria growth.
"These requirements have now been completely implemented in all countries with U.S.-bound immigrants and refugees," CDC officials said in a statement.
From 2007 through 2012, nearly 2,200 immigrants or refugees were found to be culture-positive — but the old, standard screening method would have missed those cases, the study showed.
In 2013, about 9 million people around the world became ill with TB — and about 1.5 million people died globally from the disease, the CDC reports. That same year, about 9,500 U.S. cases were reported — 3.6 percent fewer than in 2012.