1 Dead, 9 Hospitalized, Officials Declare State of Emergency

A tuberculosis outbreak in a California hotel, currently serving as a homeless shelter, has resulted in at least one fatality, prompting health officials in Long Beach to declare a public health emergency. The hotel, which has not been named, has seen 14 people infected with the disease, with nine requiring hospitalization. The announcement was made by the Department of Health and Human Services for Long Beach last Thursday, although the identity of the deceased individual has not been disclosed.

City officials have assured the public that the outbreak is confined to a specific population and poses a low risk to the general public. The individuals at risk in this outbreak face significant challenges, including homelessness and housing insecurity, mental illness, substance abuse, and severe medical comorbidities.

The declaration of a health emergency was made to bolster the city’s response capabilities to the outbreak. Despite the relatively small number of hospitalizations, it is estimated that approximately 170 people may have been exposed to the disease. The Health Department is currently conducting screenings for the illness through blood or skin tests, chest X-rays, and symptom reviews.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that tuberculosis is a severe illness that primarily affects the lungs. The bacteria can be easily transmitted through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or even talks. According to Long Beach health officials, tuberculosis spreads easily in crowded places or where people live in crowded conditions.

Individuals with HIV/AIDS or those with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of contracting tuberculosis than those with typical immune systems. While tuberculosis is generally treatable with antibiotics, those who take the medication may need to do so for approximately six to nine months.

Health officials explained that individuals who have been infected but are not yet sick have what’s known as latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI). People with LTBI can take medication to prevent the development of active TB disease. City officials have reiterated that the risk of TB for people who live, work, study, or visit in Long Beach remains very low. The Health Department will continue to screen individuals associated with this outbreak and expects the number of cases and contacts to increase.