Public health officials to contain the tuberculosis outbreak on skid row in downtown Los Angeles that has proved to be persistent have launched a new attack. Health officials are also looking for over 4,500 people who might have been exposed to the TB.
The Center for Disease Control dispatched scientists to the area to help health officials from Los Angeles determine how and why the TB is spreading and how it can be stopped.
Since 2007, officials said that 11 people have died from the outbreak. Sixty out of the 78 cases reported were amongst the homeless living on or nearby skid row.
A link has been found recently by scientists between the TB strain found in Los Angeles and a few cases that have been found outside the region. The Public Health Department for Los Angeles County said the outbreak is the largest in over a decade.
About 4,650 people who health officials believe were exposed to the TB have been identified and officials are tracking them down to be tested and then treated if their test results are positive. Officials are concerned since the cases are tied to a small geographic area and to a very vulnerable population. In addition, health officials are worried the outbreak might spread to a larger area if action is not taken quickly.
The homeless are at a higher risk of contracting TB and of going undiagnosed for longer periods since they have poor nutrition and hygiene, limited or no access to healthcare and contact that is ongoing, with people who are already infected.
Additional transmission of the disease is common since homeless people live in areas that are overcrowded and are known to constantly move amongst shelters, streets and occasionally hospitals. Many of the homeless also struggle with mental health issues and substance abuse that impedes treatment.