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Skid Row Tuberculosis Outbreak No Risk to Public, Say Health Officials

An outbreak of tuberculosis on Skid Row is no threat to the general public, the county’s top health official said Tuesday.

‘‘The public is not at risk,” Dr. Jonathan Fielding told the county Board of Supervisors.

As usual, caregivers responsible for people with tuberculosis should take special precautions, but there is no need for other residents to take any special steps, Fielding said.

He stressed that “frequent and close contact” with someone with tuberculosis was necessary in order to contract the disease and it cannot be transmitted by shaking hands or touching surfaces handled by someone who is infected.

The outbreak of an “unusual but not particularly virulent strain” of tuberculosis has been under way since 2007, Fielding said.

Since then, 11 people have died in Los Angeles County from the strain and 78 cases have been diagnosed, Fielding said. Sixty of those diagnosed are homeless and about a quarter of those homeless individuals are also HIV-positive, according to Fielding.

Tuberculosis is readily treatable once identified, Fielding said. The county’s Olive View-UCLA Medical Center also has an isolation ward for tuberculosis patients who need special attention.