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Outbreak, Outed

The Pathology Blawg reports on a tuberculosis outbreak in Jacksonville, Fla., which was initially announced by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April. The outbreak has been responsible for 99 illnesses and 13 deaths — making it "the worst [TB outbreak] seen in the US in 20 years," the blog says. "The [April 5] warning [from CDC's Robert Luo] contained the fact that an estimated 3,000 people had come into contact with the TB strain in 'homeless shelters, an outpatient mental health clinic, and area jails,' over the previous two years," Pathology Blawg adds.

Citing a story from The Palm Beach Post that broke news of the outbreak, The Florida Times-Union adds that "the public was not to learn anything until early June, even though the same strain was appearing in other parts of the state."

Pathology Blawg says CDC found that the outbreak strain's genotype is identical to one isolated in 2008 from a patient who "had circulated from hospital to jail to homeless shelter to assisted living facility, living in dorm housing in many locations," the agency said at the time. Now, that same strain "has already been identified in Miami," Pathology Blawg adds.

In a guest column, former president of the Florida Public Health Association Marc Yacht says that the state's "health department action to thwart this outbreak has been questionable and ineffective at best."

But Steven Harris, deputy secretary for health at the Florida Department of Health refutes local media reports, writing in a statement that "the number of TB cases in Florida has been trending downward for several years," and that "the increase in this particular strain of non-drug resistant TB has affected approximately 99 people over the past eight years." Harris also says that The Jacksonville Community Tuberculosis Coalition took action to ensure that the outbreak was "contained and the locally affected community … informed of the isolated strain within an isolated population."

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