Health officials in Florida hastened their closure of the nation’s only dedicated tuberculosis hospital on cost-cutting grounds as one of the worst outbreaks of the deadly disease in 20 years was taking a grip on the state, it has been revealed.
At least 3,000 people in Jacksonville may have been exposed to the highly contagious respiratory illness that claimed 13 lives in the city and left another 100 sick in the last two years, a report from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded.
But news of the severity of the outbreak never reached Florida’s politicians, who voted in March to bring forward the closure of the 100-bed AG Holley state hospital in Lantana by six months to July 2.
As a result, patients once deemed too sick for contact with the public were released into the community and others newly diagnosed with the disease, mostly from the homeless population, are being put up in local motels in an effort to keep them on their medications.
“The high number of deaths in this outbreak emphasises the need for vigilant active case finding, improved education about TB, and ongoing screening at all sites with outbreak cases,” states the report written by Robert Luo, a senior doctor with the CDC’s epidemic intelligence service, and obtained by the Palm Beach Post following a public records request.
The CDC confirmed it was one of the worst outbreaks of TB anywhere in the United States for at least two decades.