3 INVESTIGATES: TB case may be linked to last outbreak - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

3 INVESTIGATES: TB case may be linked to last outbreak

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DALTON, GA (WRCB) -

UPDATE: While health officials in Georgia continue to investigate an active case of tuberculosis in Whitfield County, Channel 3 has been working to find out where the person may have come in contact with the bacteria. 


A state health director tells Channel 3 the last outbreak in Georgia happened less than a year ago and it spread throughout the Atlanta homeless community.

Dalton is becoming known as a safe haven for the less fortunate.

“We have them coming from North, South, East and West because they know this community will certainly help them,” Pamela Cudd said.

City of Refuge is just one way someone without a home can get a hot meal, clothes, even a place to stay. Executive director Pamela Cudd says her mission is to give a hand up and not a hand out.

“We have a lot of homeless men and women that come through this community for various reasons,” she said.

After Georgia public health officials confirmed an active case of TB, Channel 3 looked into Georgia's history with TB and how it may have spread.

Less than a year ago, Atlanta health officials battled a TB outbreak at several homeless shelters that killed 3 people and infected 47 others.

We wanted to know if this case could be linked to Atlanta's outbreak. Cudd says there is a possibility.

“We have people that come from that area that migrate to the Dalton area and they're either passing through or they stay. So, the possibility is always there for something like that to happen,” Cudd added.

Because of federal health laws, we may never know who or where the person came in contact with the bacteria but Cudd says ministries like her have to take precautions for TB and other illnesses to keep everyone safe.

“If they come to us for a hot meal, we will definitely provide them with a hot meal but we don't open the window of opportunity for them to infect for harm any of the others that are on the premises,” she said.

Also some good news to pass along to you, we introduced you to 2-year-old Tasia last night who had recently been tested for TB. Her mom tells Channel 3 that test came back negative.

PREVIOUS STORY: A single case of active tuberculosis is confirmed in Whitfield County.  The individual is receiving medication as officials work to identify others who may have been exposed.
   
Health officials say while the disease can be dangerous, it's also very treatable.

The Georgia Department of Public Health says its still in the early stages of the investigation. The medical director could not give the exact number of people who may have been exposed, but says the department has identified a "large number" of people who need to be tested.
   
If you have not received a letter from either Dalton Ear, Nose & Throat Surgery Center or The Georgia Department of Public Health urging you to be tested, it's likely you have not been exposed.

"The biggest question is, why haven't I received a letter? If they haven't received a letter, they don't need to worry," said Karen Erikson, Administrator at Dalton ENT.

Dalton Ear, Nose and Throat sent some of its patients a letter on May 20th.

They won't say how many letters went out, only that the letters were sent to patients who may have come in contact with and active case of tuberculosis.

"Patients are calling us, they're asking about this happening in the surgery center," Erikson said, "This was not in the surgery center, it was in the practice."

The North Georgia Health District notified Dalton ENT about the active case of tuberculosis and built a list of anyone the infected person may have come in contact with.

Dalton ENT's administrator says the person came into the main office, and later tested positive for tuberculosis.

According to the CDC, TB is spread through the air, but only after several hours of close contact with someone who has an active case of the disease.
   
Among the first group to be tested was the employees at Dalton ENT.

"They came in and they tested all of us, none of us has shown a positive sign of tuberculosis," Erikson said.
   
When an active case of TB is identified, treatment can last anywhere from four to 12 months.
   
But the good news is, the disease is curable.
   
The staff at Dalton ENT want to make sure their patients are kept safe.

"The patient's safety is our utmost care here," said David Trammell, RN "That is what we are concerned about more than anything. We're working closely to ensure anyone who might have come in contact with the individual is being taken care of."

This is the first case of TB in Whitfield County that has been reported to Georgia's Medical Director this year. In 2014, there were four cases of TB in Whitfield County.
   
The Heath Department says all of the people tested so far have tested negative for the disease.
   
If you have any concern you may have been exposed to TB you can be tested at the health department or by your doctor's office.

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ORIGINAL STORY: Health officials confirm to Channel 3 there is an active case of tuberculosis (TB) in Whitfield County. 

A Dalton surgery center is now contacting any patients that may have been exposed to the disease and urging them to get tested.

Anna Greenway learned through a letter from Dalton's Ear, Nose and Throat Surgery Center that her 2-year-old was exposed to the disease a couple months ago.

Now, not only is she worried about her daughter's health, but the health of the rest of her family too.

“That is very scary,” Greenway said.

It's hard not for Greenway to get emotional when talking about the possibility of her 2-year-old having TB.

“At 2-years-old, she should not be facing health issues like this. She's already had a hard life,” she added.

Tasia was born premature and as a result has a compromised weak immune system. In March, Greenway brought her daughter to Dalton Ear, Nose and Throat to treat chronic ear infections.

READ MORE | Centers for Disease Control TB website


Greenway recently learned Tasia was exposed to TB while being treated at the surgery center.

“To know that my child has been exposed to something that is A) preventable and B) very devastating health wise,” she said.

Tuberculosis is a bacteria that usually attacks the lungs and is spread through the air from person to person. If not treated properly, the disease can be fatal.

The Georgia Department of Public Health confirms there is an active case of TB in Whitfield County. The department is investigating and testing anyone that has been in contact with that person.

READ MORE | What to do if you've been exposed to TB

“This has been exposed to a lot of children and adults. This is something that's pretty devastating,” Greenway added.

Greenway had Tasia tested for the disease on Wednesday. She's still waiting for the results but believes the situation could have been handled better.

“I think that we should have been notified sooner. I think that instead of just testing the patients, they should also be testing the family that was in the office with the patients,” she said.

For now, all Greenway can do is wait for the results and hope for the best.

Symptoms of TB include a bad cough that's lasted for three weeks or longer, chest pain and coughing up blood.

If you've been around someone with TB, you should get tested immediately.
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