Skip to content
CityLab
Transportation

Are City Buses Making Us Sick?

In Houston, researchers link bus use with the spread of tuberculosis
relates to Are City Buses Making Us Sick?
Flickr/Oran Viriyincy

Tuberculosis is not a terribly widespread disease in the United States — it afflicted roughly six in 100,000 Americans during one recent 10-year period — but it remains a deadly illness, particularly for people with HIV/AIDS, and eradication efforts have shown it to be a stubborn one too. Texas has the second-largest TB population in the country, and from 1995 to 2004, a Houston-based group of researchers conducted a detailed study of the disease called the Houston Tuberculosis Initiative. Whereas previous efforts looked at city-wide disease rates en masse, the new initiative aimed to identify more precise patterns of transmission within the region.

The Houston Tuberculosis Initiative targeted a number of predictable risk factors associated with the distribution of endemic TB, including income, race and history of homelessness. It also found one rather surprising link: use of public transportation.