San Diego County reports tuberculosis exposure at Golden Hall shelter
San Diego County's Tuberculosis Program Monday reported a TB exposure at the Golden Hall shelter in Downtown San Diego.
The county's Health and Human Services Agency is working with Father Joe's Villages and the San Diego Housing Commission to notify residents, employees, contractors, and volunteers potentially exposed between Sept. 5-28.
According to the county, there is no association between this notification and a separate TB exposure that occurred at a different shelter operated by Father Joe's Villages which was announced in April.
People with TB could be sick for many months before they are diagnosed, and as such, exposure periods can be long.
TB is an airborne disease that is transmitted person-to-person through inhalation of bacteria. The chance of infection is higher for people with prolonged indoor exposure to a person who is sick with TB.
People experiencing homelessness are at increased risk for TB for a variety of reasons. These include a higher risk for getting infected in congregate settings, challenges regarding access to healthcare for people experiencing homelessness, and the presence of certain medical conditions that may be more common and severe among people experiencing homelessness, a county statement read.
While the rate of TB is much higher among people who have experienced homelessness, among cases in San Diego County, 90% of people who are diagnosed with TB have not been recently homeless.
"Symptoms of active TB include persistent cough, fever, night sweats and unexplained weight loss," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. "Most people who become infected after exposure to tuberculosis do not get sick right away. This is called latent TB infection. Some who become infected with TB will become ill in the future, sometimes even years later, if their latent TB infection is not treated. Blood tests and skin tests are effective to determine whether someone has been infected."
Effective treatments are available to cure people who are sick from active TB. It is especially important for individuals with symptoms of active TB and those who are immune compromised to see a medical provider to rule out active TB and to discuss treatment, the statement read.
People in this situation are infected with TB, but the infection is essentially dormant. Taking medicines for latent TB infection can cure the infection and keep these people from getting sick.
Individuals who want more information on this potential exposure can call the County TB Control Program at 619-692-8621.
According to county data, the number of people diagnosed with active TB in San Diego County has decreased since the early 1990s and has stabilized in recent years. There were 192 cases in 2020 and 201 people reported with active disease in 2021. In 2022, 208 people were reported with active TB disease in San Diego County. An estimated 175,000 people in San Diego County have latent TB infection and are at risk for developing active TB without preventive treatment.