Back in July 2012, Florida was accused of covering up of the worst TB outbreak in 20 years:
That decision now appears to have gone terribly awry, partly because the disease appears to have already spread into the general population but also because just nine days before the CDC warning was issued, Florida Governor Rick Scott had signed a bill downsizing the state’s Department of Health and closing the A.G. Holley State Hospital that had treated the most difficult tuberculosis cases for over 60 years…
However, the itinerant homeless, drug-addicted, mentally ill people at the core of the Jacksonville TB cluster are almost impossible to keep on their medications.
Of course, poor black men were most affected, most likely uninsured poor black men. And they sent those TB patients to $35-a-night motel.
Via the Palm Beach Post:
[F]or at least two years, TB patients were routed by Duval County health officials to the Monterey Motel and told to stay put. [...] until they no longer were contagious, state Department of Health spokeswoman Jessica Hammonds said.
As I wrote in my post:
When health issues go unchecked, they spread. This is why it’s so important to provide proper health care to everyone in the country.
In this case, the “underclass” was affected, and hey, why alert the rest of the state?
When that story broke, many of us were shocked. How could such a thing happen? Well guess what? It’s happening again: Tuberculosis outbreak in downtown L.A. sparks federal effort:
Nearly 80 tuberculosis cases have been identified and 11 people have died since 2007, most of them homeless people who live in and around skid row. [...]
Officials are worried the outbreak could spread beyond skid row if action isn’t taken.
Homeless people are especially at risk of getting tuberculosis and of being undiagnosed because they tend to have poor hygiene and nutrition, limited access to healthcare and ongoing contact with infected people. Transmission of the airborne disease is also common because they tend to live in overcrowded areas and to continually move among hospitals, shelters and the streets. Many homeless people also have substance abuse or mental health issues that can impede treatment.
Via a new L.A. Times column by Sandy Banks:
Twelve people have died and 78 infections have been treated — 61 of those on skid row — since the Los Angeles strain emerged five years ago… [M]ore than 4,500 people who may have been exposed to the contagious illness. [...]
But not to worry, health officials say: “The general public is not at risk. There is no danger to the general public.” [...]
How will you stop the spread? And why did it take so long to share the news of an outbreak that’s five years old? [...]
But people who live or work on skid row say it’s naive to think the disease can be contained by focusing only on the homeless… The police officers, social workers, teachers in schools that serve skid row’s children, the clerks in the local stores … they go home to Orange County, Pasadena, Van Nuys, Inglewood.
Dr. V. Diane Woods, who has spent the past two years researching disparities in mental health treatment, said, “If this was a middle-class community, there would be more urgency… People say ‘Those are just homeless people. They’re nasty, they don’t take care of themselves.’ “But TB is not a homeless disease.”
But it is a deadly one. So why are we only just now finding out about it?
The county public health department plans to post a link to testing centers on its website, http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov.
Tests are already being offered at the Central area health center, at 241 N. Figueroa St. in downtown Los Angeles.