TB Outbreak Reported in Atlanta Homeless Shelters

Over the past three years, Fulton County had the lowest number of tuberculosis cases in the nation.

That has changed.

Since the start of 2014, county health officials say 16 cases were reported in three homeless shelters in Atlanta.

They are the Central Night Shelter, the Atlanta Union Mission and the Task Force for the Homeless.

Officials say it's easy for diseases to thrive in homeless shelters.

“The bacteria takes advantage of their situation, the congregate settings in which they live.  The difficult situations that stress their immune system and it activates.  And it circulates on an ongoing basis,” says Fulton County Medical  Director Dr. Matthew McKenna.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says homeless people are nearly 10-times more likely to get TB compared to the general population.

While there’s been an outbreak in the homeless shelters, the DPH stresses there is no threat to the general public.

“Infection with TB requires prolonged….at least six hours of sharing air in an enclosed space, of course, with an infected person,” says Dr. Patrice Harris, the District Health Director for the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness

Harris says all of the people who have the disease have been taken out of the shelters and are being treated.

The same goes for the workers and volunteers at the homeless shelters.

“We’re all going to be tested, in fact we routinely send people to get tested every day, so let’s hang tight,” says Task Force for the Homeless executive director Anita Beaty.

The Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness says a report on this outbreak will be released once its investigation is complete.