California City Declares Public Health Emergency, One Person Dead Amid Deadly Outbreak

By: Julia Mehalko | Published: May 06, 2024

Long Beach, California has declared a public health emergency after one person has died amid an outbreak of tuberculosis (TB). Tuberculosis is a contagious disease that can spread within families, households, and communities.

As health officials try to better combat this deadly outbreak, they have decided to declare this public health emergency to warn the public what is going on.

Tuberculosis Outbreak in Long Beach

During the first week of May, health officials in Long Beach, California revealed that they had a tuberculosis outbreak on their hands. Unfortunately, this outbreak has already resulted in one death.

The beach in Long Beach, California seen in the daytime.

Source: Sandro Giacon/Unsplash

Because of this death, Long Beach’s health officials have decided to declare a public health emergency as they try to help those who may have been infected.

14 Cases So Far

Thus far, officials have stated that only 14 other people have gotten this disease. Of these 14, 9 have been hospitalized.

Older brick buildings seen in the daytime in Long Beach, California.

Source: Randy Laybourne/Unsplash

According to Long Beach’s health officer Dr. Anissa Davis, up to 170 people may have been exposed to TB. Now, officials are working to find those who may have been exposed and conduct screening on them.

Screening Potential Patients

Now that a public health emergency has been announced, the California city’s health officials are hoping that more light will be shed on this potentially deadly situation. With more attention on this issue, those who have been exposed to TB may get screened and help stop the spread of the outbreak.

A person wearing a white mask.

Source: engin akyurt/Unsplash

However, health officials face an uphill battle, as they cannot reveal a lot of information about this emergency.

The Hotel at the Center of the Outbreak

Officials have declared that a hotel in Long Beach is at the center of this tuberculosis outbreak. All 14 cases so far have been linked to this private single-room occupancy hotel.

An old building and a boat seen in Long Beach in the evening.

Source: Daniel Sinoca/Unsplash

However, officials cannot release the name of this hotel to warn others, thanks to patient privacy laws.

Difficulty Finding Those Impacted

Because of this law, Davis has stressed that it makes their job more difficult, as they might not be able to easily find those who may have been past visitors of the hotel — and, therefore, may have been exposed to TB.

A person skating down a Long Beach sidewalk on a skateboard.

Source: Tom Tor/Unsplash

Davis stated, “It just highlights the urgency of being able to really identify people who were exposed to this group and get them screened.”


Homeless People Are Most at Risk

Davis did clarify that, so far, this outbreak is only concentrated among people who are homeless.

Homeless people sitting down and standing on a sidewalk in front of a building by items and a tent in Long Beach.

Source: kevin turcios/Unsplash

However, as TB is a contagious disease, there is always a threat that it could further spread through various communities in Long Beach. To keep this from happening, officials have been forced to declare a public health emergency.


What Is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis was once an incredibly deadly disease. However, thanks to modern science, many people can survive a TB infection. If left untreated, those with TB can pass away from their symptoms.

A man wiping his nose with a white tissue.

Source: Brittany Colette/Unsplash

TB is a bacterial disease that can leave people with chills, night sweats, a lingering cough, and weight loss. This virus spreads through the air, often through particles that are then inhaled.


How Contagious Is TB?

TB is considered a contagious disease that can run through small communities, especially households. However, it isn’t severely contagious.

A woman coughing into her hand while she sits on a couch.

Source: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Often, you have to be around someone with TB for a long time to truly get the disease. Davis explained this by saying, “So you really have to be around somebody for a prolonged period of time in order to really get that infection from them, so we see it a lot in like households and congregate settings and things like that.”


A Threat to the General Public?

Because this contagious disease takes a while to spread from person to person, Davis has stated that the threat to the general public remains low — even though officials did declare a public health emergency.

An aerial view of many people on the beach in Long Beach, California.

Source: Mikal Kelaidis/Unsplash

The homeless community in Long Beach is at the highest risk, especially because TB can spread easily in communities, households, and families.


Other Symptoms of TB

TB is easily spread from person to person through the air. This can occur if an infected person sneezes, coughs, or spits near a healthy person.

A man in a blanket sneezing into his hand.

Source: Towfiqu barbhuiya/Unsplash

However, some people who have been infected with this disease do not have symptoms. These people do not experience any sickness and aren’t considered infectious. Therefore, they cannot spread the disease to others.


Declaration of a Public Health Emergency

Davis and other city health officials are now trying to limit this outbreak in Long Beach. Declarations of a public health emergency can often make controlling the outbreak easier — especially if a lot of people have possibly been exposed.

The ocean of Long Beach, California seen in the daytime with homes and mountains behind it.

Source: JacksonS/Unsplash

“Because of that it has required more resources than our regular day-to-day can provide, and so a declaration of a localized public health emergency was necessary in order to rapidly get the resources that we need to respond to this outbreak effectively,” she said.