Monday, March 01, 2004

TB Problem Solved? Ooops, Nevermind…

Those of you involved in the struggle to get OSHA to issue a tuberculosis standard before the agency trashed its proposal may recall that one of the main actors fighting the standard were homeless shelters. OSHA says the standard is no longer needed. The problem is under control.

And who should be disagreeing, but the state of Maine, which is currently dealing with a costly TB outbreak that started – guess where – in a homeless shelter in Portland.
Dr. Dora Mills, director of the Maine Bureau of Health, said the state has leveraged at least $1 million in existing resources to fight TB, but is $350,000 short of the total needed for screening at shelters, jails and prisons to prevent the disease from becoming entrenched. The first TB outbreak in Maine in 15 years started in Portland in the summer of 2002 at a homeless shelter.

Once TB was discovered, city and state health officials began exhaustive screening in the shelters. Over the course of last year, screening and interviews led health officials to identify about 1,000 people who had contact with eight men diagnosed with active TB. Of those people, about 100 had cases of dormant TB.

Mills said there are typically about a dozen isolated TB cases a year, but with the outbreak in Portland over the past year, the number