Shlomo Sprung | Jul. 9, 2012
Budget cutbacks in the state of Florida ultimately led to ignoring a CDC report that said over a dozen people died because of a tuberculosis outbreak, the worst in 20 years, the Palm Beach Post's Stacey Singer reports.
On April 14, the CDC filed a report that said a TB outbreak in a Jacksonville hospital led to 13 deaths, six in children, and nearly 100 illnesses and would take a large effort to stop the outbreak, says Singer. Nine days earlier, Florida passed a budget cut that shrank the state's health department and forced the early closure of A.G. Holley State Hospital, where TB has been treated for over a half century.
So while key state lawmakers focused on how to manage the budget cuts, the 25-page report on the outbreak went largely unnoticed for nearly three months:
Believing the outbreak affected only their underclass, the health officials made a conscious decision not to not tell the public, repeating a decision they had made in 2008, when the same strain had appeared in an assisted living home for people with schizophrenia.
That report mentioned that 3,000 people had been in dangerously close contact with TB over the past two years in state prisons and homeless shelters, yet only 253 people, less than 10 percent, had been evaluated for the disease, the Post says.
Treatment for TB could be quite costly. With two years of treatment and dozens of pills a day, the Post reported that medical costs could reach $275,000 for those afflicted with the illness. To top all that, the CDC report said that the outbreak had spread to the general population, which was not informed of this for months.
Until last Friday Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, who was the main voice behind the shutdown of A.G. Holley hospital, said he did not know about the CDC report. When informed, he said that money would be allotted and he told the Post that "there is every bit of understanding that we cannot not take care of people who have a difficult case of TB."