Almost one in five homeless people with tuberculosis in Canada's largest city died within 12 months of being diagnosed, a 10-year study has found.
"That's quite significant — it's in the order of about three to four times higher than what we expect to see with someone who had TB," Dr. Kamran Khan, leader of the study, and a doctor at St. Michael's Hospital, said in an interview.
The study published Wednesday in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases identified 91 homeless people with active TB in Toronto from 1998 to 2007.
In addition to the higher-than-usual death rate for the infectious disease, which can be spread through droplets released through a cough or sneeze, the study found that a growing proportion of tuberculosis cases in the homeless shelters — 40 per cent — are among immigrants. They hail from around the globe, Khan said, including locations in Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia and Europe.
"It's significant because we know that highly drug-resistant forms of TB — and these are infections that can be life-threatening and typically take years to treat — are far more common in other parts of the world than they are in Canada," said Khan.
There are two things to take away from this.
The first one is the obvious one. It's apparent that immigrants have brought drug resistant forms of TB into the country and are walking free among the population, particularly Toronto, Canada's largest city. The fact that they were able to enter the country while hosting the infection proves that Canada's screening process is ineffective thus putting the health of Canadians in jeopardy.
The second thing to consider is that immigrants are visiting homeless shelters. Why is that?