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County health agency notifies Father Joe's community of possible TB exposure

Father Joe's Villages in San Diego's East Village provides shelter beds and other services to people in need, Sept. 13, 2016.
Susan Murphy
Father Joe's Villages in San Diego's East Village provides shelter beds and other services to people in need, Sept. 13, 2016.

San Diego County's Tuberculosis Control program worked Tuesday to notify staff, volunteers and clients potentially exposed to TB at various Father Joe's Villages programs.

The affected programs include Father Joe's inclement weather shelter, San Diego Day Center, food services, employment and education services, and Village Health Center, with the dates of potential exposure from Jan. 14 to March 3.

TB is an airborne disease that is transmitted from person-to-person through inhalation of the bacteria from the air. People with active tuberculosis are often unaware they have the disease and may be contagious for several months before being diagnosed. Most people who are exposed to TB do not become infected.


"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," she said. "Some who become infected with tuberculosis 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."

According to the county Health and Human Services Agency, people experiencing homelessness are at increased risk for TB for a variety of reasons. Those reasons include a higher risk for getting infected in congregate settings, challenges regarding access to healthcare and the presence of certain medical conditions that may be more common and/or severe among people experiencing homelessness.

While the rate of TB is much higher among people who have experienced homelessness, 90% of people in the county who are diagnosed with TB have not been recently homeless.

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 in 2020 and 201 people reported with active disease in 2021. Preliminary data shows 208 people were reported to have active TB disease in 2022. An estimated 175,000 people in San Diego County have latent TB infections and are at risk for developing active TB without preventive treatment, health officials said.

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