The University of Texas System Texas-Mexico Border Health Coordination Office (TMBHCO), with representatives from the Texas Department of Health, End of the Road Ministries-Harlingen and Ozanam-Brownsville, announced the start of an ultraviolet tuberculosis research study Feb. 14 in Harlingen.
The announcement included the "turning on" of ultraviolet lights. Among the attendees were Dr. Paul Villas, TMBHCO executive director, along with representatives of American Electric Power-Central Power and Light (AEP-CPL) and the End of the Road Ministries-Harlingen and Ozanam-Brownsville shelters.
The Rio Grande Valley is one of three areas nationally participating in a study to evaluate the effectiveness of low-level ultraviolet light for curbing tuberculosis in facilities serving the homeless. Homeless are at high risk for contracting this disease, and the Valley rate of infection is higher than the national average.
The TMBHCO and the Texas Department of Health-Region 11 are part of a national team initiating the five-year study designed to control the spread of tuberculosis. The effort will test ultraviolet germicidal irradiation as a safe, inexpensive preventative measure to lower the incidence rate in homeless shelters.
Local shelters scheduled to participate are End of the Road Ministries-Harlingen and Ozanam-Brownsville. Future participants include Salvation Army shelters in McAllen and Laredo.
Financial assistance has been provided by AEP-CPL, which contributed $60,000. The national sponsor is Electric Power Research Institute.