Silicon Valley home to highest TB rates in US

SAN JOSE, Calif.

San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara are up there when it comes to the number of cases of tuberculosis in America. "We have a very diverse population. We have international travelers. We have tech entrepreneurs that travel globally," Dr. Teeb al-Samarrai told ABC7 News.

According to the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health, 89 percent of tuberculosis cases in Silicon Valley were in foreign-born residents from the Philippines, Vietnam, India, China, and Mexico.

And, a person's socioeconomic status has nothing to do with it. "Someone can be exposed to TB in one place at one point in time, and it doesn't show up and progress to disease until 10 years later," al-Samarrai said.

"The TB strains have become more antibiotic resistant. When you have that, it becomes a real problem," Democratic Rep. Mike Honda of San Jose said.

Honda led this year's California Tuberculosis Controllers Association meeting. 24 counties were represented and all of them agreed that the federal government should be ordered to have an adequate supply of drugs to treat TB. Right now, it doesn't.

"Because if we don't have a supply of medications, we can't treat the disease," Dr. Charity Thoman with the California Tuberculosis Controllers Association.

Honda will go back to Congress to ask for more funds which in the past, have been cut. Children and young adults accounted for 10 percent of TB cases in Santa Clara County.

Two students in attendance at the meeting won prizes for their posters designed to bring awareness in schools. "If you have TB and it's active, if you cough or sneeze in any way and you spread the bacteria, the other person or anyone around you or anything you touch and they touch it, anyone can get it," 4th-grader Jami Watt said.

"It sometimes can stop them from learning a lot and they can probably die from it," said 4th-grader Sarah Rammaha.

A vaccine against TB is not used in the U.S. because it has never been effective.

Copyright © 2023 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.