Fulton County Health Dept. investigating tuberculosis outbreak - CBS46 News

Fulton County Health Dept. investigating tuberculosis outbreak

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Anita Beaty is executive director of the Metro Atlanta Taskforce for the Homeless. Her shelter is one of three the Fulton County Health Department is concerned about because there is a tuberculosis outbreak.

"Our main concern is to protect our residents from the panic of hearing out on the streets there is an outbreak of TB," said Beaty.

Beaty said she learned about the 16 TB cases this week.

"We first learned about the issues of TB and some of our former residents on Monday of this week, three days ago," said Beaty.

"We have had 30 cases in this first quarter, 16 of those cases were associated with the three homeless shelters in question," said Dr. Dan VanderEnde.

Some residents at the Atlanta Union Mission and Central Presbyterian Church's Central Night Shelter also tested positive.

"If I had active tuberculosis I'd consider it very serious. At the beginning of the 20th Century, TB was the leading cause of death in the United States," said VanderEnde.

Health officials said over the past four years, Fulton County had the lowest number of TB cases in the country. On average there were two to three cases per month.

"If a person is infected with TB bacteria, they inhale it from another person and they become infected. The bacteria sets up in a person's body. Ninety-five percent of the time, a person will not get ill. The bacteria will remain dormant. That person will live the rest of their life," said VanderEnde.

TB is very prevalent within the homeless community because they tend to have weakened immune systems.

"We want to stress there is no threat to the public at large since infection with TB requires prolonged, at least six hours of sharing air in an enclosed space," said VanderEnde.

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