Centering in LA, a local strain of tuberculosis went from a few isolated cases to infecting thousands in skid row. While TB tends to start by infecting the homeless, who aren’t likely to get consistent treatment that leads to a diagnosis, it can quickly spread to others via outreach centers like soup kitchens.
Something similar happened in Florida last year—a single homeless man was not diagnosed with tuberculosis symptoms quickly enough, and ended up causing an outbreak that spread through the Jacksonville population.
Unlike in Florida, where government officials tried to play-down the severity of the outbreak and made decisions that contributed to the spread of the outbreak, LA officials are doing everything they can to contain tuberculosis, contacting people who may have been infected, warning hospitals, and providing treatment.
Besides being highly contagious, tuberculosis is notoriously hard to treat, taking months of harsh medications. Missing a dose can easily cause the bacteria to mutate, leading to an even harder to treat strain of tuberculosis, and causing the outbreak to become worse. (And missing a dose is tempting when symptoms of treatment are as bad or worse than the disease!).
The expense of the treatment (months of some of the strongest, most recently developed antibiotics) is one of the causes of Florida’s TB trouble. Because the outbreak starts in a particularly poor and disenfranchised part of the population, who may not get treatment or else be able to follow tuberculosis treatment as required, it increases the chances of the outbreak spreading.
With both coasts affected, the return of TB may be closer than has been estimated. As antibiotics fail, TB will spread quickly due to a larger, denser population who’s forgotten what it was like before antibiotics.
What do you think of the return of tuberculosis? Let us know in the comments: