Problem/condition: Approximately 450,000 legal permanent immigrants and 75,000 refugees enter the United States annually after receiving required medical examinations by overseas panel physicians (physicians who follow the CDC medical screening guidelines provided to the U.S. Department of State). CDC has the regulatory responsibility for preventing the introduction, transmission, and spread of communicable diseases into the United States as well as for developing the guidelines, known as technical instructions, for the overseas medical examinations. Other conditions that are not infectious might preclude an immigrant or refugee from entering the United States and also are reported as part of the medical examination. After arrival in the United States, all refugees are recommended to obtain a medical assessment by a health-care provider or a health department within 30 days. In addition, immigrants with certain medical conditions such as noninfectious tuberculosis at the time of the original medical examination are recommended to be evaluated after arrival to ensure that appropriate prevention or treatment measures are instituted. Health departments need timely and accurate notifications of newly arriving immigrants, refugees, and persons with other visa types to facilitate these evaluations. Notifications for all newly arriving refugees (with or without medical conditions) and immigrants with medical conditions are provided by CDC's Electronic Disease Notification (EDN) system. This is the first report describing EDN.
Reporting period: This report summarizes notifications by the EDN system during January-December 2009.
Description of system: The EDN system is a centralized electronic reporting system that collects health information on newly arriving refugees and immigrants with Class A and Class B medical conditions. Class A conditions render applicants inadmissible and require a waiver for entry; Class B conditions are admissible but might require treatment or follow-up. Information in the EDN system is used to notify state health departments in all 50 states and the District of Columbia about the arrival of these persons in the United States.
Results: In 2009, the EDN system notified U.S. state and local health departments of 104,954 newly arriving refugees and immigrants, of whom 78,899 (75.2%) were refugees (with or without medical conditions), 19,358 (18.4%) were immigrants with medical conditions, and 6,697 (6.4%) were persons with other visa types. Of the 78,899 refugees, 21,319 (27%) had a medical condition. The majority (93.4%) of immigrants with medical conditions had tuberculosis classifications (i.e., either had evidence of latent tuberculosis infection or chest radiograph findings interpreted by the overseas panel physician as consistent with tuberculosis). Of the 41,415 refugees and immigrants with Class A or Class B medical conditions, 405 (1%) had Class A conditions, and 40,994 (99%) had Class B conditions. The majority of refugees and immigrants with suspected Class B tuberculosis were born in the Philippines (41.3%), Mexico (12.1%), Burma (8.7%), Vietnam (7.8%), and the Dominican Republic (5.8%). The majority of refugee notifications were for persons born in Iraq (23.9%), Burma (18.9%), and Bhutan (15.1%). Approximately one third of the tuberculosis notifications were sent to health departments in California (20.5%), Texas (9.8%), and New York (6.3%), and the national reporting rate for tuberculosis follow-up was 75.4% within 30 days of arrival.
Interpretation: The findings in this report suggest that 1) overseas medical screening results in a low frequency (0.4%) of inadmissible medical conditions in the United States, 2) the EDN system provides more direct notifications to health departments than the previous paper-based system about newly arriving immigrants and refugees who need medical follow-up, and 3) approximately 75% of follow-up occurs among persons with suspected tuberculosis who are reported to EDN by states receiving newly arriving refugees and immigrants.
Public health actions: The data in this report can be used to help state and local health departments provide prompt and effective follow-up, evaluation, and treatment to newly arriving immigrants and refugees. Timely follow-up might prevent additional spread of tuberculosis or other communicable diseases of public health significance into their communities. In addition, information from the EDN system allows health departments to use their resources as effectively as possible by providing clinical information that identifies the refugees and immigrants who should be prioritized for evaluation and treatment.