1 Dead, 9 Hospitalized, Officials Declare State of Emergency

A California hotel, currently repurposed as a shelter for the homeless, has become the epicenter of a tuberculosis outbreak, leading to at least one death. This alarming development has prompted health officials in Long Beach to declare a public health emergency. The hotel, whose name has not been disclosed, has reported 14 cases of the disease, with nine of these cases severe enough to require hospitalization. The Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services made the announcement last Thursday, but the identity of the deceased individual remains undisclosed.

City officials have sought to reassure the public, stating that the outbreak is limited to a specific population and poses a minimal risk to the general public. The individuals most at risk in this outbreak are those facing significant challenges such as homelessness, housing insecurity, mental illness, substance abuse, and severe medical comorbidities.

The declaration of a health emergency is a strategic move to enhance 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.