The Duval County Health Department is working with state and federal health officials to test Duval’s entire homeless population for TB. Testing will be conducted at shelters, food lines, and from mobile units at venues frequented by the homeless, John Armstrong, surgeon general for the state health department, said Monday.
Five five-person teams will begin testing the week of July 22, Armstrong said. The goal is reaching 90 percent of the nearly 3,000 contacts of people who have tested positive for the FL 0046 TB strain. Authorities hope to complete the process in six weeks, rather than the usual six months. “We are undaunted by the challenges, and we’re going to close this loop,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong and county health officials met with Times-Union journalists in response to a Palm Beach Post report that said health officials had kept the public in the dark about an increased cluster of a TB strain among area homeless people. State and county health departments followed protocol in notifying the appropriate at-risk populations, Armstrong said.
“Our community is not at risk for tuberculosis,” Armstrong said. “We have to make sure that we are keeping the messages to the targeted populations so we don’t create unnecessary fear and anxiety that adversely affects the lives of our citizens.”
Though notification efforts have been a “success story,” state and local agencies could streamline information-sharing to improve the process, Armstrong said.
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