Calif. city declares health emergency as tuberculosis outbreak kills 1, infects 14

A privately owned hotel in California is at the center of a reported tuberculosis outbreak that has infected 14 people.

The unnamed hotel housing the homeless has seen the outbreak turn deadly as one person with the infectious bacterial disease has died and nine others have been hospitalized, according to the Department of Health and Human Services for Long Beach.

City Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis “declared a local public health emergency to strengthen the City’s preparedness and ability to respond to a localized tuberculosis (TB) outbreak,” according to a city press release.

“The outbreak is currently isolated to a distinct population, and the risk to the general public is low,” Long Beach’s Public Information Office said in the press release. “The population at risk in this outbreak faces significant barriers to care, including homelessness, housing insecurity, mental illness, substance use, and serious medical comorbidities.”

City health officials declared a public health emergency and are reportedly concerned about any additional people who may have been exposed while staying at the hotel. The Long Beach City Council is expected to ratify the emergency declaration on Tuesday.

“To protect patient privacy and comply with HIPAA regulations, the name of the hotel will not be released. The facility is a private hotel not operated by or contracted with the City of Long Beach. People who were staying at the hotel at the time or could have otherwise been exposed have been or will be contacted by the Health Department,” the statement read.

“This is surprising,” Director of Infectious Disease at Dignity Health Dr. Suman Radhakrishna told KTLA.

“We’ve had a lot of people coming from the developing part of the world where tuberculosis is endemic. And if they haven’t had a chance to get adequate healthcare and they have active TB, when they cough, they will aerosolize the bacteria, and all the susceptible individuals around them start to come down with TB,” Radhakrishna added.

There is a concern about an additional 170 people being exposed to the disease and Health Department staff “are in the process of screening contacts for TB via symptom review, blood or skin test, and a chest x-ray,” according to the press release, which claimed that the “risk of TB for people who live, work, study or visit in Long Beach remains very low.”

According to the city’s release:

Tuberculosis, also known as TB, is a serious illness caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Like COVID-19, TB spreads through the air, such as when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. However, TB is not as quickly transmitted as COVID-19, and usually requires prolonged exposure between the person with TB disease and family, friends or everyday close contacts. Crowded and poorly ventilated environments are risk factors for tuberculosis transmission. Not everyone exposed will become infected and not everyone infected with the bacteria becomes sick.

 

“You can catch tuberculosis if someone is coughing or sneezing or in close contact, the bacteria from those particles gets into the air and anybody nearby will breathe that in — and that’s how they pick it up and that’s how they catch it,” New York City-based Dr. Janette Nesheiwat told Fox News Digital.

While the U.S. has had one of the lowest rates of TB cases in the world, there has been an uptick in California according to the state’s Department of Public Health with the number of reported cases in 2023 jumping up 15% from 2022.

“In 2023, the CDC reported 9,615 provisional TB cases in the United States, up from 8,895 in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year. The increase is likely a result of the ongoing recovery from pandemic-related healthcare disruptions, global increases in TB cases, and more frequent travel and migration post-pandemic,” Newsweek noted. “As before the pandemic, TB rates in 2023 were highest among non–U.S.-born people.”

Just last month, the Chicago Department of Public Health warned the public about measles exposure as well as a few cases of TB reported at “a few different shelters” for illegal migrants, according to Fox News Digital.

“This is a crisis we could have avoided, just like with the measles, if we had simply instituted the American standard of vaccines upon all those migrants being shipped to the city of Chicago,” Chicago alderman Raymond Lopez told Fox News last month.

“Many of these individuals come with children, they are in our schools and all of those vaccination requirements that our kids are responsible for are waved for the migrant asylum seeker children,” the alderman said. “And that is putting the people, families and communities at risk.”

Frieda Powers

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