Twenty-nine of this year's cases stem from four downtown Atlanta homeless shelters, and 19 of those 29 are drug-resistant versions of TB, an airborne infectious disease that most commonly attacks the lungs. Three homeless people who contracted TB died.
The Georgia Department of Public Health recently asked the CDC to provide funding to help stop the outbreak, which officials said began in May.
Despite the Georgia outbreak, incidence of the disease is declining nationally. A March report from the CDC found there were fewer than 10,000 U.S. TB cases in 2013, a decrease of 4% from 2012 and the first time TB incidence fell below 10,000 annual cases.
But the disease is still a cause for global concern, mostly because it is almost entirely preventable and curable. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden and two other physicians wrote in a JAMA article Thursday that more can and should be done to better control TB.
“Forgetting is the key challenge in tuberculosis control,” the authors wrote. “Political leaders forget the poor and disenfranchised, who are most likely to contract and die of tuberculosis. Health leaders forget simple, low-technology interventions and therefore neglect the core work of treatment observation, field supervision and cohort monitoring and evaluation. Patients forget how sick they were and may stop medications when symptoms subside.”
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