Long Beach health officials declare tuberculosis outbreak a public health emergency

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

Long Beach officials declared a public health emergency Thursday afternoon after one person died and nine others were hospitalized due to a tuberculosis outbreak in the city.

The city’s chief health officer, Dr. Anissa Davis, said the outbreak was localized to a single-room occupancy hotel, which health officials declined to identify.

As of Monday, a total of 14 cases had been identified. The health department’s tuberculosis control staff, however, has identified an additional 170 people who have likely been exposed.

Those individuals are in the process or will be screened in one of several ways, including chest x-rays, blood and skin tests and symptom review, according to health officials.

Davis said people staying at the hotel at the time or who could have otherwise been exposed have been or will be contacted.

Public Health officials were unable to confirm the date of the first recorded case.

The outbreak comes at time when tuberculosis infections have been rising statewide.

The number of cases in 2023 rose by 15% in California compared with the previous year, the state Department of Public Health said in March. That’s the highest year-over-year increase since 1989, when it was tied to people co-infected with HIV.

In total, there were 2,113 cases statewide last year, about the same amount reported in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

To protect patient privacy, officials declined to disclose the Long Beach business or location of the outbreak.

Davis said the facility is private and not operated by the city of Long Beach.

Long Beach health officials confirmed the hotel in question was not in quarantine and was still open. It’s unclear whether residents who were staying at the facility were moved out.

The health department is authorized to provided temporary housing, food and transportation to those exposed, according to Davis.

Tuberculosis treatment is also covered by the health department.

Jennifer Rice Epstein, Long Beach Public Affairs Officer, said the first positive test was confirmed at a local hospital.

Davis said the outbreak is currently isolated and the “risk to the general public is low.”

The low income population at risk in this outbreak “has significant barriers to care, including homelessness and housing insecurity, mental illness, substance use and serious medical co-morbidities,” Davis said.

Rice Epstein said that any resident who believes they may be infected should seek medical care.

The disease is a serious illness that is spread through the air, like COVID-19, according to Long Beach health officials. Unlike COVID-19, however, tuberculosis usually requires prolong exposure.

“It’s usually people living together in close quarters that spread TB,” Rice Epstein said. “It’s spread more easily in poorly ventilated rooms.”

The emergency declaration will be formally voted on by the City Council on Tuesday. If approved, it allows the health department to mobilize city resources, streamline staffing and coordinate with outside agencies, according to officials.

Neighboring Los Angeles County has no cases related to the outbreak in Long Beach, according to public health officials.

However, a department spokesperson said the agency intends to “support Long Beach” with staffing from its health disease control bureau and other departments.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.