Six residents of Tyler shelters ’show no evidence of active TB,’ UTHCT infectious disease specialist says

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

"The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler has evaluated six shelter residents in the past 24 hours for tuberculosis. They have all been tested and show no evidence of active tuberculosis," said Dr. David Lakey, UTHSCT infectious disease specialist and member of the medical operations center of Tyler’s Emergency Operations Center.

"Once it was determined that there was no active TB in any of these patients, they were returned to their respective shelters. Medical clinics have been set up in all shelters to monitor the health of all residents and to ensure that residents with more serious or urgent medical conditions are then transported to local hospitals," Dr. Lakey said.

With the cooperation of the American Red Cross, medical professionals and volunteers are being very proactive in preventing the spread of any infectious disease at the shelters, he said.

"Some of these measures include signs encouraging hand washing, alcohol hand-washing gels throughout the shelter, and educational materials stressing how good hygiene can stop the spread of infectious diseases," Dr. Lakey said.

"Thus far, we have been very successful in preventing the spread of infectious diseases within the shelter. We had a few cases of non-bacterial diarrhea, but no other reported infectious disease problems," he said.

"All shelter residents will continue to be evaluated carefully," Dr. Lakey said.

Information about TB from Dr. David Griffith, UTHSCT pulmonologist and assistant medical director for the Heartland National TB Center:

Tuberculosis is a disease that primarily affects the lungs. It is spread when an infected individual coughs contagious tuberculosis organisms into the air that are then inhaled by an uninfected individual.

The spread of tuberculosis usually requires close or intimate contact, such as household contact, over a long period of time. Most household contacts of patients with active tuberculosis do not contract TB. The majority of people who become infected by tuberculosis never get symptomatic or sick. Only about 10 percent of people infected by the tuberculosis germ become sick and contagious. This process usually takes months to years, and sometimes decades. The most common symptoms of active tuberculosis are cough, fatigue, weight loss, fever and night sweats.

Currently, between 1,500 and 1,600 new cases of active tuberculosis are diagnosed in Texas each year. There are many fewer new cases of tuberculosis each year in Louisiana, less than one tenth the number of new cases diagnosed each year in Texas. The Louisiana Department of Health finds and treats tuberculosis cases according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, and it is very unlikely people with undiagnosed tuberculosis have arrived in Texas from Louisiana.

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