Cost-effectiveness of screening and treating foreign-born students for tuberculosis before entering the United States

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Abstract

© 2015, Public Library of Science. All rights reserved. Introduction: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering implementation of overseas medical screening of student-visa applicants to reduce the numbers of active tuberculosis cases entering the United States. Objective: To evaluate the costs, cases averted, and cost-effectiveness of screening for, and treating, tuberculosis in United States-bound students from countries with varying tuberculosis prevalence. Methods: Costs and benefits were evaluated from two perspectives, combined and United States only. The combined perspective totaled overseas and United States costs and benefits from a societal perspective. The United States only perspective was a domestic measure of costs and benefits. A decision tree was developed to determine the cost-effectiveness of tuberculosis screening and treatment from the combined perspective. Results: From the United States only perspective, overseas screening programs of Chinese and Indian students would prevent the importation of 157 tuberculosis cases annually, and result in $2.7 million in savings. From the combined perspective, screening programs for Chinese students would cost more than $2.8 million annually and screening programs for Indian students nearly $440,000 annually. From the combined perspective, the incremental cost for each tuberculosis case averted by screening Chinese and Indian students was $22,187 and $15,063, respectively. Implementing screening programs for German students would prevent no cases in most years, and would result in increased costs both overseas and in the United States. The domestic costs would occur because public health departments would need to follow up on students identified overseas as having an elevated risk of tuberculosis. Conclusions: Tuberculosis screening and treatment programs for students seeking long term visas to attend United States schools would reduce the number of tuberculosis cases imported. Implementing screening in high-incidence countries could save the United States millions of dollars annually; however there would be increased costs incurred overseas for students and their families.

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Wingate, L. T., Coleman, M. S., Posey, D. L., Zhou, W., Olson, C. K., Maskery, B., … Painter, J. A. (2015). Cost-effectiveness of screening and treating foreign-born students for tuberculosis before entering the United States. PLoS ONE, 10(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0124116

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