Each year, approximately 500,000 immigrants and tens of thousands of refugees (range: 12,000-85,000 during 2001-2020) move to the United States. While still abroad, immigrants, refugees, and others who apply for admission to live permanently in the United States must undergo a medical examination. This examination identifies persons with class A or B conditions. Applicants with class A conditions are inadmissible. Infectious conditions that cause an applicant to be inadmissible include infectious tuberculosis (TB) disease (class A TB), infectious syphilis, gonorrhea, and infectious Hansen’s disease. Applicants with class B conditions are admissible but might require treatment or follow-up. Class B TB includes persons who completed successful treatment overseas for TB disease (class B0), those with signs or symptoms suggestive of TB but whose overseas laboratory tests and clinical examinations ruled out current infectious TB disease (class B1), those with a diagnosis of latent TB infection (LTBI) (class B2), and the close contacts of persons known to have TB disease (class B3). Voluntary public health interventions might also be offered during the overseas examination. After arriving in the United States, a follow-up TB examination is recommended for persons with class B TB.
This report summarizes health information that was reported to CDC’s Electronic Disease Notification (EDN) system for refugees, immigrants, and eligible others who arrived in the United States during 2014-2019. Eligible others are persons who although not classified as refugees (e.g., certain parolees, special immigrant visa holders, and follow-to-join asylees) are eligible for the same services and benefits as refugees.
The EDN system has both surveillance and programmatic components. The surveillance component is a centralized database that collects 1) health-related data from the overseas medical examination for immigrants with class A or B conditions and for all refugees and eligible others and 2) TB-related data from the postarrival TB examination. The programmatic component is a reporting system that sends arrival notifications to state and local health agencies in the jurisdiction where newly arriving persons have reported intending to live and provides state and local health agencies and other authorized users with medical data from overseas examinations.
During 2014-2019, approximately 3.5 million persons moved to the United States from abroad, including 3.2 million immigrants, 313,890 refugees, and 95,993 eligible others. Among these, the overseas examination identified 139,683 persons (3,903 per 100,000 persons examined) with class B TB, 54 with primary or secondary syphilis (30 per 100,000 persons tested), 761 with latent syphilis (415 per 100,000 persons tested), and, after laboratory testing for gonorrhea was added in 2016, a total of 131 with gonorrhea (374 per 100,000 persons tested). Refugees were offered additional, voluntary interventions, including vaccinations and presumptive treatment for parasites. By 2019, first- and second-dose coverage with measles-containing vaccine were 96% and 80%, respectively. In refugee populations for whom presumptive treatment is recommended, up to 96% of refugees, depending on the specific regimen, were offered and accepted treatment. For the 139,683 persons identified overseas with class B TB, EDN sent arrival notifications and overseas medical data to the appropriate state or local health agency to facilitate postarrival TB examinations. Among 101,119 persons identified overseas as having class B0 TB (6,586) or class B1 TB (94,533), a total of 67,432 (67%) had a complete postarrival examination reported to EDN. Among 35,814 children aged 2-14 years identified overseas with class B2 TB, 20,758 (58%) had a complete postarrival examination reported to EDN. (Adults are not routinely tested for immune reactivity to Mycobacterium tuberculosis during the overseas medical examination.) Among those with a complete postarrival examination reported to EDN, the number with a diagnosis of culture-positive TB disease within the first year of arrival was 464 (688 cases per 100,000 persons examined) for those with class B0 or B1 TB and was 11 (53 cases per 100,000 persons examined) for children with class B2 TB.
During 2014-2019, the overseas medical examination system prevented importation of 6,586 cases of infectious TB, 815 cases of syphilis, and 131 cases of gonorrhea. When the examination is used to offer public health interventions, most refugees (up to 96%) accept the intervention. Postarrival follow-up examinations, which were completed for 88,190 persons and identified 475 cases of culture-positive TB, represent an important opportunity to further limit spread of TB disease in the United States by identifying and providing, if needed, preventive care for those with LTBI or treatment for those with disease.
Federal, state, and local health departments and agencies should continue to use EDN data to monitor, evaluate, and improve health-related programs and policies aimed at U.S.-bound or recently arrived immigrants, refugees, and eligible others. Additional public health interventions that could be offered during the overseas medical examination should be considered (e.g., treatment for LTBI). Finally, for persons with class B TB, measures should be taken to identify and remove barriers to completing postarrival examinations to reduce risk for TB disease and community transmission, along with measures to encourage reporting of completed examinations for better data-driven decision-making.