California health officials declare public health emergency after tuberculosis outbreak kills 1, infects 14 others

News & Politics

A deadly outbreak of tuberculosis inside a California hotel acting as a homeless shelter has led to at least one death. Health officials in Long Beach have consequently declared a public health emergency, according to Fox News Digital.

The sudden outbreak at an unnamed hotel has reportedly infected 14 people, resulting in nine people having to be hospitalized. The Department of Health and Human Services for Long Beach made the announcement on Thursday. The identity of the individual who died has not been revealed.

City officials announced that [t]he outbreak is currently isolated to a distinct population and the risk to the general public is low.”

“The population at risk in this outbreak has significant barriers to care including homelessness and housing insecurity, mental illness, substance use and serious medical comorbidities.”

Officials stated that the reason they declared a health emergency was to strengthen the city’s ability to respond to the outbreak, per the report.

Despite the low number of people who have been hospitalized, the report noted that around 170 people have likely been exposed to tuberculosis. The Health Department is currently in the process of screening contacts for the illness by way of blood or skin tests, chest X-rays, and symptom review.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that tuberculosis is a serious illness that primarily affects the lungs. The bacteria can easily be spread through the air by an infected person coughing, sneezing, or even just speaking.

“Tuberculosis spreads easily where people gather in crowds or where people live in crowded conditions,” Long Beach health officials said.

“People with HIV/AIDS and other people with weakened immune systems have a higher risk of catching tuberculosis than people with typical immune systems.”

While tuberculosis is typically treatable with antibiotics, those who take the medication may need to do so for around six to nine months, according to KTLA.

“People who have been infected but are not yet sick have what’s called latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI),” health officials said. “People with LTBI can take medication so that they do not later get sick with active TB disease.”

“The risk of TB for people who live, work, study or visit in Long Beach remains very low,” city official stated. “The Health Department will continue to screen individuals associated with this outbreak and expects the number of cases and contacts to increase.”

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