Dignity Health Director Attributes Long Beach Tuberculosis Outbreak To Individuals From Developing Countries

Dignity Health Director of Infectious Disease Dr. Suman Radhakrishna has attributed the current tuberculosis outbreak in Long Beach, California, to individuals coming from developing countries where the illness is endemic.

“We’ve had a lot of people coming from the developing part of the world where tuberculosis is endemic. And if they haven’t had a chance to get adequate healthcare and they have active TB, when they cough, they will aerosolize the bacteria, and all the susceptible individuals around them start to come down with TB,” they explained.

The outbreak, linked to a single room occupancy (SRO) hotel, has resulted in 14 confirmed cases of TB disease, nine hospitalizations and one death as of April 29. City Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis declared a local public health emergency on Thursday to enhance the city’s preparedness and ability to respond to the outbreak effectively.

Health Department workers are currently screening approximately 170 people who may have been exposed to the illness for tuberculosis. Officials expect the number of cases and contacts to increase as the investigation continues.

The official press release noted that the outbreak is currently confined to a specific population facing significant barriers to care including homelessness, housing insecurity, mental illness, substance use and serious medical comorbidities. The city has not released the name of the hotel to protect patient privacy and comply with HIPAA regulations.

Tuberculosis, a serious illness that mainly targets the lungs, spreads easily in crowded conditions and poses a higher risk to people with weakened immune systems.