Long Beach, California, declared a tuberculosis health emergency.
Long Beach, California, declared a tuberculosis health emergency. Wikimedia Commons

The city council of Long Beach, California, issued a local public health emergency in response to a local outbreak of tuberculosis after one person died and about 170 were exposed in recent days.

The City's Public Health Officer, Anissa Davis, declared the emergency to strengthen the City's response and ability to address the issue, as treatment for tuberculosis, also known as TB, requires months of multiple medications.

The risk to the general population of Long Beach is low because the outbreak is "isolated to a distinct population" of about 170 people who likely have been exposed to TB and may need state assistance, according to the release.

All of them were associated with a single room occupancy (SRO) hotel in Long Beach, whose name wasn't released to protect patient privacy and comply with federal regulations.

The health department identified at least 14 cases of TB disease associated with the outbreak between April 29 and May 2. Of those, nine people were hospitalized at some point during their illness, and one person has died.

"The population at risk in this outbreak has significant barriers to care, including homelessness and housing instability, mental illness, substance use, and serious medical comorbidities," the statement says.

Davis recalled that the Health Department's TB Control Program will provide treatment to everyone with TB disease who is affected by this outbreak and also supports them as necessary with temporary housing, food and transportation.

Tuberculosis symptoms usually include cough, fever, night sweats, weight loss,
Tuberculosis symptoms usually include cough, fever, night sweats, weight loss, or feeling tired. Freepik

The recent cases come amid a nationwide increase in tuberculosis cases, which have been on the rise since 2020 after an almost three-decade decline.

During 2023, a total of 9,615 TB cases were reported by the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia (DC), representing an increase of 1,295 cases (16%) as compared with 2022, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The rate in 2023 (2.9 per 100,000 persons) also increased compared with that in 2022 (2.5), the CDC added.

The Health Department's release explains that tuberculosis "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.

Not everyone exposed will become infected and not everyone infected becomes sick. Generally, persons at high risk for developing TB disease are persons who have been recently infected with TB bacteria or persons with medical conditions that weaken the immune system

People experiencing homelessness, people who use illicit substances and people with HIV are also at an increased risk of becoming infected with TB germs compared to the general population, the document says.

People with active TB disease will usually feel sick and have symptoms like a cough that lasts for two or more weeks, fever, night sweats, weight loss or feeling tired. People with active TB disease can be cured by taking several medications.

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