According to the report, from Jan. 1 through July 31, there were 29 confirmed cases of tuberculosis associated with four shelters, with 19 of the cases drug-resistant. In May, when the spike was first detected, we reported the presence of 16 active TB cases in three shelters. Our investigation has identified a fourth shelter where a person with an active TB infection had stayed.
Tuberculosis, commonly referred to as TB, is an airborne infectious disease caused by a bacterium. It is most often found in the lungs, but can attack any part of the body. TB bacteria are put in the air when a person with the disease coughs, sneezes, or speaks. Because the bacteria that cause tuberculosis are transmitted through the air, the disease can be contagious. However, only a small number of people infected with TB will ever have the active disease. The remaining will have what’s called latent TB infection — they show no signs of infection.
In addition, Medical Director Dr. Matthew McKenna and Medical Program Director Dr. Daniel VanderEnde confirm two of the homeless persons who contracted TB have died. Further investigation is needed to determine whether a third death of a homeless person who stayed at one of the shelters is TB-related.
McKenna and VanderEnde said there is no threat to the public at large since infection with TB requires prolonged (at least eight hours) sharing of air in an enclosed space. All persons with active disease have been relocated from the shelters while they undergo treatment under department supervision. The Georgia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are assisting in the investigation. As indicated in May, Fulton Health and Wellness will release a full report on the outbreak when the screenings and investigation are completed.
As of July 31, there were 47 countywide confirmed cases. Two of the 29 shelter-related patients are long-term volunteers. In the previous two years there were 49 and 54 countywide cases, respectively.