Tallahassee, Florida- July 27, 2012
The number of diagnosed tuberculosis cases in Florida has dropped from a high of 1764 in 1994 to 753 last year. But the homeless in Jacksonville are seeing a spike. That spike is prompting other communities to step up their own TB testing.
While declining statewide, TB cases in Jacksonville are on the rise. The city has averaged just over 12 cases a year. But since January, there have been 39 new cases primarily among homeless. The spike has prompted state health department officials to send reinforcements.
“We have five teams that are doing the screening and testing for Duval County residents,” Kim Barnhill, Chief of Staff of the Florida Department of Health said.
In Tallahassee, Glenda Williams was being tested. She is a nurse at this low income community clinic.
“What did that feel like?” “Just a little bee sting.”
Because of the spike in Jacksonville, this clinic will begin offering free TB testing to the homeless two days a week, starting next week.
“The economy, we think, has got more people going into shelters, closer, people are traveling more, and we don’t want what happened in Jacksonville, to happen here,” Bond Community Clinic Chief Health Officer Dr. Temple Robinson said. “So we’re trying to get ahead of this.”
The first thing medical professionals want to know if you test positive is who you’ve been in contact with.
Health officials are quick to point out that testing is what all 67 county health departments are ready to do.
“This is something that health departments do everyday,” Barnhill said. “So, stepping up our game–we do that everyday.”
The spike in Jacksonville coincides with the state’s closing of its last 1950s era TB hospitals this summer.
TB is an infection that can be treated. Symptoms include a cough that lasts three weeks or longer, chest pain, coughing up blood, weakness, weight loss and sweating at night. It is passed by inhaling droplets from another in close proximity.