Notes from the Field: Cluster of Tuberculosis Cases Among Marshallese Persons Residing in Arkansas - 2014-2015

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016 Aug 26;65(33):882-3. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6533a7.


During early September 2014, the Arkansas Department of Health identified an increased number of tuberculosis (TB) cases among a unique population in a well-circumscribed geographical area in northwest Arkansas. The Compact of Free Association Act of 1985 (Public Law 99-239, amended in 2003 by Public Law 108-188) established the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) as an independent nation, and persons from the RMI can travel freely (with valid RMI passport) to and from the United States as nonimmigrants without visas (1). Marshallese started settling in northwest Arkansas during the early 1990s because of employment and educational opportunities (2). According to the 2010 Census, an estimated 4,300 Marshallese resided in Arkansas (2), mostly within one county which ranked 6th in the United States for counties with the highest percentage of Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders (3). It is estimated that this number has been growing steadily each year since the 2010 Census; however, obtaining an accurate count is difficult. The RMI is a TB high-incidence country, with a case-rate of 212.7 per 100,000 persons for 2014, whereas the case-rate was 3.1 per 100,000 persons in Arkansas and 2.9 per 100,000 persons in the United States (4,5). Screening for either active TB or latent TB infection (LTBI) is not required for Marshallese entry to the United States (1).

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arkansas / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / isolation & purification*
  • Transients and Migrants / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis / epidemiology*