In April Florida experienced one of the worst tuberculosis outbreaks in twenty years, but thanks in part to Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) bill that shrank the Department of Health and closed the state’s primary hospital for treating TB, the news was kept secret.
According to the Palm Beach Post, 3,000 people in the past two years may have had close contact with contagious people at Jacksonville’s homeless shelters, an outpatient mental health clinic and area jails. Yet investigators learned that only 253 people had been found and evaluated for TB infection. That means the outbreak is far from contained.
In fact, the public wouldn’t learn anything until June and state health officials seem oblivious to the impending public health crisis afoot. Three months after the Centers for Disease Control contacted the state of Florida and told them to deal with this crisis the report still has not been widely circulated.
In the report, the CDC makes it clear that other health officials throughout the state and nation have reason to be concerned: Of the fraction of the sick people’s contacts reached, one-third tested positive for TB exposure in areas like the homeless shelter. Furthermore, only two-thirds of the active cases could be traced to people and places in Jacksonville where the homeless and mentally ill had congregated. That suggested the TB strain had spread beyond the city’s underclass and into the general population.
Departments of Health and Social Services are easy targets for Republicans like Scott to target for pillage. Thanks to those policies Floridians now face a TB outbreak in a state insufficient medical staff and facilities to treat it. If the Scott administration either won’t acknowledge or doesn’t understand the crisis on its hand, how can it be trusted to treat and contain it?
Photo from Elvert Barnes via flickr.