Thousands May Have Been Exposed To Deadly TB Epidemic Downtown

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The feds are descending on downtown Los Angeles to combat a dangerous outbreak of a drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis.

KCAL9’s Jeff Nguyen went downtown in search of people who may have been exposed.

John Williams started living at the Weingart shelter on LA’s Skid Row two weeks ago. Before he could be admitted, he had to undergo a screening for tuberculosis.

“They make you go get checked before you get into one of these programs because they don’t want it spread out in there,” Williams said.

With nearly 80 cases of tuberculosis being identified in LA County since 2007 — thirty of which have been on Skid Row — tuberculosis screenings are more important than ever for some.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a coordinated effort to contain the area’s largest outbreak in a decade.

“We are really putting our resources into this,” said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Anthony Stallworth, who pastors Central City Community Church of the Nazarene on East 6th Street, also volunteers at the LA Mission.

He constantly washes his hands to prevent illness, but he doesn’t want to live in fear.

“The work that we do down here in the church and the work that we do at the LA Mission, I believe that God has His hands on it,” Stallworth said.

Dianne Artea sleeps at the Midnight Mission and says she’s always worried about the people around her.

“These guys are walking around with masks. And we got to sleep next to them. They split,” Artea said.

TB is contracted by inhaling droplets from infected patients who sneeze, cough or laugh, which is why Williams is mindful of avoiding a few things while living on Skid Row.

“Don’t be smoking after nobody, and drinking after nobody. Let nobody use your phone,” he said.

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