LOS ANGELES (AP) — Local and federal health officials have teamed up to try to isolate and contain a persistent outbreak of tuberculosis on Los Angeles' Skid Row that may have exposed more than 4,600 people to the disease.
Eleven deaths have been recorded in nearly 80 cases of the illness since 2007, and most of the victims were homeless people living on downtown streets, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday (http://lat.ms/Zlew3H ).
Despite a decrease in overall cases in recent years, officials worry the outbreak will spread beyond the poverty-stricken parts of downtown Los Angeles where it has thrived.
"This is the largest outbreak in a decade," Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, told the Times.
In recent weeks, emergency rooms, clinics and urgent care centers have been alerted to the investigation within the homeless community. New guidelines were issued earlier this year on how to screen for and identify tuberculosis at shelters.
Shelter employees and volunteers are being encouraged to be screened for the contagious bacterial infection that results from shared air or contact with bodily fluids of an infected person.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has dispatched scientists to help local health officials curb the spread of the disease.
The outbreak has been linked to one tuberculosis strain that is unique to Los Angeles.
Homeless people are at higher risk of contracting tuberculosis because of poor hygiene and ongoing contact with infected people.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com