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Latent tuberculosis from Somali immigrants is not contagious, but racist news stories are

I'm not Donald Trump but he probably approves this message.

I'm not Donald Trump but he probably approves this message.

Did you know that one in four Somali immigrants in Minnesota sort of almost has tuberculosis?


Were you aware that tuberculosis killed more than a billion  people in the 19th and 20th centuries? 

And did you know ominous questions are six times scarier than facts? 

If all of this makes you nervous about living alongside Somalis in Minnesota, and you want to learn more about tuberculosis, go get a book.

If you just want to get scared and validate your racism, watch Valley News Live.

That's the colloquial name for KVLY-TV, the NBC affiliate in the Red River Valley area of North Dakota. Earlier this week, Valley News broadcast a story about the tremendous danger posed to Minnesotans, and anyone passing through this state, by the presence of Somali immigrants who are carrying tuberculosis.

Watch this story, Minnesotans, and you might just hold your breath until you can cross the state border to safer territory.


Note news anchor Andrea Larson's line during the lead-in there.

"Tuberculosis being brought by refugees to the U.S.," she says, wordily,  "is an issue the Minnesota Department of Health is working to fix." 

Here is something else the Minnesota Department of Health is working to fix: the bullshit scare tactics in this story. By Tuesday, one day after the Valley News Live story aired, the Fargo Forum published a corrective piece with more — meaning: any — factual basis than the original.

The claim that tuberculosis rates are "rising for the first time in 20 years" is true in Minnesota. Last year, the state had  150 tuberculosis cases, an increase of... three, from the 147 it saw in 2014. Nationally, the tuberculosis number went from 9,406 reports of American residents with tuberculosis up to... 9,563 last year.

The trend's going the wrong way, but this report makes it seem like you might be at risk of tuberculosis merely by breathing the air in Minnesota or North Dakota. You're not. Unless you identify someone who has tuberculosis, move into their house, close the door, and climb into bed with them. 

Minnesota Department of Health spokesman Doug Schultz tells the Forum catching TB requires "prolonged, close contact."

He explains: "Just being in the proximity of someone with tuberculosis, you're considered a low risk."

Now, as for the much more common "latent tuberculosis," which reporter Bradford Arrick says "could become active again," well, we'll let the Centers for Disease Control explain:

Persons with latent TB infection do not feel sick and do not have any symptoms. They are infected with M. tuberculosis, but do not have TB disease. The only sign of TB infection is a positive reaction to the tuberculin skin test or TB blood test. Persons with latent TB infection are not infectious and cannot spread TB infection to others. (Emphasis theirs.)

Just to help Bradford and his viewers out: You (white) people who don't have latent TB are in no danger of catching it from the thousands of people who do. The only people at risk are the people who have it. Don't be afraid. Maybe you could help them.

What is highly contagious, clearly, is xenophobic reporting that paints existing and potential refugees as disease-ridden rodents. Here are a handful of headlines from follow-up stories to the Valley News Live segment:

22 Percent of Resettled Refugees in Minnesota Test Positive for TuberculosisBreitbart

Howie Carr on the TB outbreak in Minnesota from Somalian refugeesNewsmax

20% of Refugees Settle in Minnesota Tested Positive for TB, Reagan Coalition

ALARMING: 22% OF REFUGEES In Minnesota Test POSITIVE For TB, 100 Percent Fed Up

After cursory research, we're prepared to diagnose a bunch of right-wing websites and their readers with active or latent racism. Remember, active racism can be caught by other people, but only after spending a lot of time in close proximity to the carrier. Latent racism is more easily hidden, and not contagious, but with certain aggravating factors, such as shitty, racist news stories, can be just as damaging to the carrier. 

Pray for a cure.