A Possible Tuberculosis Case in Humboldt County Raises Concerns Among Health Officials

524px-Pulmonary_tuberculosis_symptoms.svgAfter a recent autopsy on a middle aged man from the Southern Humboldt area found “suspicious tissue,” two nurses from the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are reaching out to people who might have had prolonged close contact with him, confirmed DHHS Public Health Nurse Eric Gordon. They are concerned that the man MAY have had tuberculosis, a contagious disease that often attacks the lungs and can be fatal.

“When this individual passed away…of a cause of death unrelated, an autopsy was done,” said Gordon. When the Coroner “was examining the lungs, he had some concerns so a suspicious tissue sample was sent to the CDC [Center for Disease Control and Prevention,]”  Gordon explained. The CDC will run a molecular test to determine whether or not the man had tuberculosis.

“My experience has been it takes a couple of weeks [to get back results,] Gordon explained. Meanwhile, he said, “We have started a contact investigation out of an abundance of caution.”

Gordon says it is unlikely that anyone would get the disease from simply being coughed on. But, he said, “We do have concerns about people who have an intimate association.” Public Health nurses are attempting to get in touch with anyone who had close contact with the man for a prolonged period of time. Gordon said this could be an intimate partner or someone who was in a confined space like a car for several hours.

Because of privacy concerns and because it is not known whether the man actually did have tuberculosis, the name of the deceased is not being released. However, anyone who thinks they may have been exposed can contact the Department of Health and Human Services at (707) 268-2169 to get more information.

If the man’s tissue turns out to be infectious, Gordon said, the nurses will have gathered information on the “folks who had at least obvious close contact with him.”

“Tuberculosis disease was once the leading cause of death in the United States,” said Susan Buckley, Director of DHHS in this press release. “Today, however, people with active TB disease can almost always be treated and cured if they seek medical help. Even better, people with latent TB infection can take medicine so they will not develop active TB disease.”

Gordon said that Humboldt County averages only one to two cases a year. “In the United States, we have a very successful eradication program,” he said. But tuberculosis or TB is still a problem in third world countries.

Though treatment is available for those who are infected, Gordon explained, treating the disease takes at least four different antibiotics and up to six months of treatment. This, he said, can be a financial hardship and time consuming.

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Note: Image by Mikael Häggström [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

 

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9 comments

  • Since this perdon is not being identified how can ANYONE know if they may have been exposed? This is rather disturbing to say the least

  • That is concerning. However, nurses are attempting to track down possible contacts and, presumably most people who have had close contact with a man who has recently died in Southern Humboldt will call the phone number.

  • He was a resident of Phillipsville and the community has been warned by word of mouth…

  • What ever you do don’t start a panic, its better more people get sick then any “government official” look stupid by making a mistake by warning the whole community to soon, I mean what if its not TB people might feel uncomfortable for no reason. Hell maybe we could import some people with TB from El Salvador to treat in the garbervill hospital, why not it worked for Ebola. But siriously there are hundreds of false alarms every year let’s hope this is one, its just too bad it takes several weeks to finds out. I’m not worried the government always knows best its like my dad, it gives me goodies when I’m good and tells me when I’m bad. Sorry can’t help my self, I just can’t wait for it to go totally socialist then I won’t have to think at all and can quit my job, lay around and smoke dope all day and still get “free”money;-)

  • Free money,where?just kidding.dont panic till its time to panic.sounds like the nurse’s are the ones that might need to be tested.and it’s treatable!!

  • it’s quite prevalent in the CA prison system…

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