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Several hospitalized in tuberculosis outbreak; Long Beach declares health emergency

One died of the disease but the local cases are connected to a specific location and the outbreak doesn’t pose a broad risk to the public, the city’s health officer said.

Several hospitalized in tuberculosis outbreak; Long Beach declares health emergency
Stock image.

An outbreak of tuberculosis that has exposed at least 170 people to the disease and caused 14 active cases prompted Long Beach’s city health officer to declare a public health emergency on Thursday.

Nine of the infected people were hospitalized for some period of time and one person has died, according to a news release from the city. All those affected are believed to have a connection with a specific hotel where some of the people were living.

“The risk to the general public is low – that is not the reason for this emergency,” Dr. Anissa Davis, the health officer, told the Watchdog. “This is a contained local outbreak.”

The city is not naming the hotel to protect the medical privacy of people who may have been exposed. Tuberculosis is caused by a slow-growing bacteria and can be held at bay by a person’s immune system for years, so not everyone who is infected with the bacteria will develop active TB disease, Davis said.

Symptoms can include a cough that lasts more than three weeks, fever and night sweats, and loss of appetite. People can spread the disease by coughing, sneezing and talking, but Davis said getting infected takes a much longer exposure than a virus like COVID-19, so it’s more likely to spread among people who live or spend a lot of time together.

Tuberculosis is treatable with a combination of medications, and “we expect everyone to be cured who’s treated,” Davis said.

TB infections are much more common elsewhere in the world. The California Department of Public Health noted in a February advisory that more than 80% of cases statewide are in people born outside the U.S., but people who lack stable housing or have other serious medical conditions are especially vulnerable.

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The state health department also noted that tuberculosis cases in California were up year-over-year by 15% in 2023 when about 2,113 cases were reported.

As to the Long Beach outbreak, Davis couldn’t provide specific details but said she believes it was reported to the city’s Department of Health and Human Services by a medical provider who diagnosed a case locally.

She declared the public health emergency because the number of people who may have been exposed and must be contacted, tested and potentially given care “is outstripping our available resources,” and more resources are available in an emergency. (The Long Beach City Council is expected to ratify the emergency declaration Tuesday.)

Davis said people who are concerned they may have been exposed or have related symptoms should contact their health provider, and they can also call the city resource line, 562-570-7907, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.

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