As Covid Grabbed the World’s Attention, Texas’ Efforts to Control TB Slipped

by | Feb 16, 2023 | Health

Narciso Lopez has spent more than two decades working to control the spread of tuberculosis in South Texas. He used to think that when patient traffic into the clinics where he worked was slow, that meant the surrounding community was healthy. But when the covid-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, that changed.

“I would be getting maybe three to four a month,” recalled Lopez, a TB program supervisor with Cameron County’s health department.

In a matter of months, patients seeking care at the county’s two clinics dropped by half. “And then I wasn’t getting any at all,” he said.

As covid gripped the world’s attention, Lopez began to focus on a parallel concern: whether TB was being overlooked along the Texas-Mexico border.

“I knew there had to be TB cases out there; they just weren’t being found,” Lopez said in a recent interview.

Before 2020, advances to eradicate TB, which is spread person-to-person through the air, were underway globally. It was considered by many public health experts to be a feasible goal, since tools are available to identify and treat it. But the prevalence of the disease in Mexico, and immigration along the border, has made it a longtime health concern in these communities.

In areas with high immigrant traffic, such as Cameron County, TB is a serious health concern. Cameron sits at the southernmost tip of Texas, and each year millions of people cross to and from Mexico at the four border crossings in the Brownsville region. Brownsville is the county’s seat and largest city. In 2 …

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