Health Dept. refutes charges of TB outbreak

caines | 7/19/2012, 5:30 a.m.

Officials say media created unfounded fears

The Florida Department of Health [DOH] is denying accusations of covering up a tuberculosis outbreak in Jacksonville. According to a statement released from the State Surgeon General John H. Armstrong, the people of Florida werent properly provided accurate medical details on TB to properly understand their risk. Armstrong added his personal personal disappointment with The Palm Beach Post. However, reports from the Post also suggested that the outbreak had spread as far south as the City of Miami. Armstrong says that too was based on erroneous information. The Palm Beach Post made a reckless choice to misinform you by reporting on a cluster of TB patients that posed no public health risk and positioning this as a secret, Armstrong stated. According to Armstrongs statement, Duval County Health Department publicly addressed the issue and worked openly with the Center for Disease Control and local leaders via the Jacksonville Community TB Coalition. While the DOH did not deny that potentially 3,000 people might have interacted with at least one person who might have TB, they insist that infection is not easily obtained. TB is caused by airborne bacteria spread through coughing or close contact with those already infected. To be at risk, you must be exposed to the organisms constantly, by living or working in close quarters with someone who has the active disease, said Dr. Steven Harris, Department of Health deputy secretary. Harris also noted that most people who are infected never have display symptoms, making the disease even more evasive. It is nearly impossible to catch TB from casual contact with an infected person, he said. According to the DOH, misquoted data pointed to 13 deaths and 99 illnesses associated with the a cluster of TB patients in Duval County. But that was over an eight-year period [2004 to 2012] not in what many assumed was one year. The number of infected individuals in Florida for the 2012 calendar year is 284, which includes all types of TB, according to the DOH. Despite recent reports, the DOH insists that the presence of TB in Florida has been declining since 1994, which reported a total of 1,764 cases for that year. By Julia Samuelsjsamuels@miamitimesonline.com