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Communicable Disease Testing

Testing for Communicable Diseases in the Immigration Physical

Part of the immigration medical examination process involves testing for certain communicable diseases of public health significance. If a foreign national tests positive for any of these diseases, he or she may fail their medical examination, rendering them inadmissible for adjustment of status.

Some of the communicable diseases of public health significance included in the testing portion of immigration physicals include:

  • Gonorrhea
  • Leprosy / Hansen’s disease
  • Syphilis
  • Tuberculosis

There are two disease categories. Quarantinable diseases are those conditions designated by a Presidential Executive Order. This includes cholera, infections tuberculosis, plague, yellow fever, smallpox, diphtheria, pandemic flu, viral hemorrhagic fevers, and severe acute respiratory syndromes. The second group are events reportable under the category of “public health emergencies of international concern” (PHEIC) to the World Health Organization (WHO), as regulated by the International Health Regulations (IHR) of 2005. This list currently includes smallpox, SARS, influenza, and polio.

Tuberculosis Screening (PPD)

One of the tests for communicable diseases is called a purified protein derivative (PPD) skin test. This test shows whether or not the patient has tuberculosis, an infection that most often affects the lungs and is spread through airborne contact with the breath of an infected individual. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tuberculosis or “TB” is the second leading cause of death worldwide, behind HIV and AIDS. The disease is becoming increasingly rare in the United States.

Rapid Plasma Reagin (RPR) Test

The rapid plasma reagin (RPR) test is used to screen for syphilis. Syphilis is a potentially fatal sexually transmitted infection (STI). The RPR test works by locating antibodies produced in your body to fight antibodies. If untreated, syphilis can cause death. The RPR test uses a sample obtained using a blood test called a venipuncture, drawing blood from the arm.

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