Officials say that when drug-resistant cases show up in the U.S., there is often a Mexico connection. Of San Diego’s 14 multidrug-resistant TB cases between 2007 and 2011, half were either from Mexico or had a Mexico link based on the particular strain of the disease, said Kathleen Moser of the county’s Health & Human Services Agency, which sees many patients who live and work on both sides of the border.
Part of the problem, of course, is that Mexico’s rate of TB infection is much higher—in some cases 10 times higher. The resistant strains begin to breed, experts say, when doctors there give patients similar drug regimens over and over. Other times, patients who aren’t supervised closely abandon treatment before they are cured.
It’s worse because of the Mexican drug violence:
Funding isn’t the only issue. As a key part of prevention efforts, U.S. experts have regularly crossed the border in California and Texas to keep tabs on and help patients directly. But drug-related violence along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border has shot up, forcing workers to consult only from the U.S. side. Among them is Barbara Seaworth, the medical director of a TB center in San Antonio, who stopped a few years ago after making the trips for nearly 20 years.
Compounding the problem: Mexico lacks enough health workers to offer directly observed therapy to every patient.