TB ALERT! San Diego Shelter Scare Sparks Health Hustle for the Homeless

TB ALERT! San Diego Shelter Scare Sparks Health Hustle for the HomelessSource: San Diego County
Roma Chang
Published on November 28, 2023

A recent health scare has emerged for San Diegans after tuberculosis (TB) exposure was flagged at the Golden Hall shelter, a development that could put several people at risk for the airborne disease. According to the San Diego County News Center, the exposure occurred between September 5 and September 28, affecting residents, workers, and others frequenting the facility.

The county's public health services, in league with Father Joe's Villages and the San Diego Housing Commission, hustled to alert those at potential risk in the shelter located at 1101 First Ave. This comes on the heels of another recent TB exposure incident in April at a separate shelter, though officials insist there is no connection between the two. People down on their luck and without a stable place to lay their heads face a higher probability of contracting TB, a fact that is exacerbated by congested living conditions, inconsistent access to healthcare, and pre-existing medical amenities that often plague the homeless community. But it's important to note that an overwhelming majority of TB cases in San Diego County, 90%, involve individuals who are not recently houseless.

Wilma Wooten, M.D., County Public Health Officer, detailed the symptoms of an active TB infection as "persistent cough, fever, night sweats, and unexplained weight loss," and stressed the importance of getting tested for TB through blood and skin tests following potential exposure. It's critical to catch the disease early, with effective treatments in hand to cure active TB. Keep an eye on particular individuals with immune deficiencies, and those showing telltale signs of the illness must promptly consult medical professionals for diagnosis and possible treatment courses, according to the San Diego County News Center.

The health agency has urged those who may have been exposed to call the County TB Control Program for more information and to get tested; it's vital because having a latent TB infection means the bacteria is dormant and medication can prevent its activation—this is a key in stopping the spread and potentially life-saving, with a chest x-ray and doctor consultation as next steps for those who test positive but are symptomatic, a no-brainer considering the statistics that out of San Diego County's approximately 175,000 residents with latent TB, they're ticking time bombs for the active disease if left untreated. Tracking TB statistics showcases a decline in active cases since the early '90s, but the past few years reflect a sobering plateau, as 2020 saw 192 people fall ill, 201 in 2021, and a rise to 208 reported in 2022. If you're in the mix, reach out to the TB Control Program directly at (619) 692-8621.