TB Outbreak In L.A. Strikes Infamous Skid Row

A TB outbreak in L.A. has health officials scrambling to attack the growing number of cases among the mostly homeless people living on Skid Row.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they are sending scientists to Los Angeles to combat the tuberculosis outbreak. Health officials said they already know of about 4,650 people who were exposed to TB and are trying to find them so they can be tested.

Those health officials fear that the TB outbreak could spread in L.A. beyond Skid Row if it’s not contained quickly, the Los Angeles Times reported.

But the TB outbreak is particularly hard on L.A.’s Skid Row, home to a sizable homeless population. Officials said 11 people have died of the disease since 2007, and 60 of the 78 reported cases involve homeless people living in Skid Row.

“This is the largest outbreak in a decade,” Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, told the Los Angeles Times. “We are really putting all of our resources into this.”

Poor hygiene and nutrition make the homeless a particularly susceptible population for TB, attributes that are compounded by lack of access to health care.

“They go from place to place and the likelihood of passing it along is much greater,” said Paul Gregerson, chief medical officer of the JWCH Institute, which runs a homeless healthcare program on skid row. “It makes everybody more susceptible.”

Tuberculosis is spread through the air, but not as easily contagious as the cold or flu, ABC News noted. It requires close contact over an extended period of time for transmission to take place.

“You don’t get tuberculosis from being next to someone or walking down the street,” Fielding said.

Scientists studying the case made an interesting find — the TB outbreak in L.A. appears to be a strain unique to the area, with few cases showing up outside Los Angeles. are also at risk.