TB cases on rise in Fulton; Officials mum on shelters with danger

TB cases on rise in Fulton; Officials mum on shelters with danger

Fulton County health department reports the county has almost the same amount of TB cases through July this year as it did for all of 2013 with more than half of them occurring in downtown homeless shelters.

Officials refuse to identify the shelters where people have been at most risk for catching the disease. Nor did officials list possible reasons for the spike, which has concerned them.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution asked Dr. Matthew McKenna, medical director for the county health department, to name the shelters in which officials confirmed 29 cases of TB this year.

In an email, McKenna said: “We are not releasing or confirming the names of the shelters associated with this increase in TB cases to fulfill our responsibility to protect the confidentiality of the facilities and their clients.”

McKenna, however stressed that there was no threat to the “public at large” because infection from TB requires sharing enclosed air space with an infected person for at least eight hours.

In other words if you are not homeless or sharing an international flight, you will probably be OK.

At least two of the homeless people have died from the disease and county officials are investigating whether a third death is TB related. Tuberculous is an air-born disease, normally transmitted when a person coughs, sneezes or speaks, that usually attacks the lungs but can be found in other parts of the body.

Health officials said that all persons diagnosed with the disease have been relocated from the shelters and are being treated. The Georgia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are assisting in the investigation.

Tuberculosis data as of July 31:

  • Total no. of county-wide confirmed cases: 47
  • Total no. of county-wide suspected cases: 4
  • Total no. of cases associated with now four (4) downtown Atlanta homeless shelters: 29 (19 of the 29 cases have been found to be drug resistant)
  • 2 of 29 shelter-related cases are long-term volunteers

Fulton County TB cases by year:

  • 2014: Jan-July—47 confirmed, 4 suspected
  • 2013: Jan-Dec—49 cases (27 of those reported Jan-July 30th)
  • 2012: Jan-Dec—54 cases (31 of those reported Jan-July 30th)

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