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Long Beach officials say TB outbreak contained, months of care awaits those infected

City Council members were briefed on the Tuberculosis outbreak Tuesday by the city's health officer who declared a local health emergency earlier this month.

Long Beach officials say TB outbreak contained, months of care awaits those infected
Stock image.

The Long Beach City Council approved a local health emergency Tuesday after a recent outbreak of Tuberculosis in the city that health officials say will require extensive monitoring of potentially hundreds of people and months-long treatment for those who contracted the illness.

Dr. Anissa Davis, the city’s health officer who called for the emergency earlier this month, said Tuesday that there are 14 active cases in the city, meaning those people are contagious and could spread the bacteria that causes TB, with prolonged contact with others. One person has died of the disease.

Davis said the outbreak was confined to a local motel where people with housing insecurity, pre-existing conditions, and substance abuse issues are among those affected by the outbreak. But those affected have spent time in other parts of the city and outside of Long Beach, broadening the scope of the people who will require monitoring, Davis said.


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“The risk to the general public is low and we aim to keep it that way with the emergency resources and activities we’ll be doing,” Davis said, noting that, unlike COVID-19, the spread of TB requires longer exposure time to someone who has an active infection.

The city will have to monitor and test potentially hundreds of others to see if they have latent TB, which indicates that bacteria has been contracted, but the immune system is keeping the disease dormant.

Latency could last for years or throughout a person’s entire life, and both active and latent cases will require intense monitoring from the city’s health department, Davis said.

Testing could take several days for each person and include screening questions, a blood test and an x-ray to determine if they’re infected. Davis said that as many as 20% of people exposed could become infected but a much smaller number could have developed active TB cases.

In a memo to the council, Health and Human Services Director Alison King said that of the 170 people suspected to have been exposed the department expects another five people will be found to have active cases. Upward of 500 more people could require screening in the coming months.

“The vast majority will have nothing, then the biggest group will have a positive (latent) infection,” Davis said Tuesday.

Those with active cases will have to take medication for at least six months to help keep the disease from worsening while those with latent TB will have to take medication for at least three months. Both scenarios require health workers to observe the ingestion of the medicine, Davis said.

“While this is resource intensive, it’s a cornerstone strategy to make sure the patients take the medication safely and so they can become non-contagious as quickly as possible and so they don’t develop drug-resistant TB,” Davis told the council.

The council’s vote Tuesday will allow the health department to seek grant funding to help pay for the monitoring and the medication, which will be provided to those infected at no cost, Davis said. It could also allow the department to more quickly hire the vacant positions it needs to be filled to staff the team that will help care for those affected by the outbreak.

Mayor Rex Richardson and others were careful to characterize the outbreak as one that was contained by isolating some patients for treatment.

“This is not a widespread, rampant situation,” Richardson said Tuesday.


Jason Ruiz has been on strike from the Long Beach Post since March 21, yet he’s still covering city hall without pay. Thank him for his reporting.


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