State health officials focus on TB outbreak

42 active cases of tuberculosis reported in Duval County this year

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - On the heels of an outbreak in Duval County, the Florida Department of Health released a new Tuberculosis System of Care on Monday, saying it's working to eliminate the disease.

FDOH announced it's refocusing necessary resources after coming under fire for its handing of a TB outbreak in Duval County.

So far this year, there are nearly 284 reported cases of TB statewide. Last year there were 753.

James Buckman, of Jacksonville, said he fears he's been exposed to tuberculosis.

"Ain't no telling. I could have, but I try to keep myself from out of harm's way," said Buckman, waiting at a bus stop Monday. "But sometimes you can't see it."

In Duval County, there are 42 active cases reported, prompting the Health Department to conduct an investigation called "Epi-Aid," targeting an estimated 2,100 people considered "potential TB contacts" mainly within the homeless population.

So far, health officials said they have screened just more than 1,000 people for the contagious airborne disease.

"Very concerned because it's a deadly disease, it can kill you," Willie McCray said.

The Health Department said it has deployed five teams of professionals in Jacksonville to test people for TB, and homeless centers like the Clara White Mission say they're working cooperatively to fight the disease.

"The majority of folks that come in here have already been tested, but the ones that haven't, we let them know that testing is available in the room that we've identified them at," said Ken Covington, of the Clara White Mission. "And then there are some that have been identified as positive results, and X-rays are being set up here, too, so they are taking X-rays here on site.

The initial tests provide on-the-spot answers, which the mission believes eliminates some of the difficulty in dealing with treatment.

"With this test that's being used, you don't have to go back to read the skin results," Covington said. "You're able to do it from the test sample that you take it from."

The treatments in Duval County are also happening across the state. The Florida Department of Health released a new tuberculosis system of care, claiming it was not sparked by Duval County cases.

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