Local News

Wake County Health Officials Battle Tuberculosis Outbreak In Homeless Community

Posted April 26, 2000

— Wake County health workers have been battling a recent outbreak of tuberculosis in the homeless community. The workers say they have contained the disease, now they must find the source.

Homeless shelters depend on countless volunteers and a small staff, but word of a tuberculosis scare initially made workers like Travis Hinton a little nervous.

"At first, I didn't know what was going on, but they explained to us that there was no need to panic because they had everything under control," Hinton says.

Wake County health officials worked quickly. They got the infected individuals into treatment, which safeguarded the Wilmington Street shelter.

"For the most part, the staff has shown to be negative and a significant number of people there are also negative," says shelter director Hardy Watkins.

Lou Brewer is among theWake County Human Servicesstaff working with a team from theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, trying to get to the source of the tuberculosis outbreak.

"Last year, we had 36 cases," Brewer says. "There's a lot of information, and we need to look at when the most likely exposures might have occurred."

Wake County Human Services officials say the general population, especially volunteers, should not be worried about becoming infected.

Tuberculosis is spread by coughing, but doctors say it generally takes several hours of exposure in a small space. Symptoms include a cough, a low-grade fever and night sweats.

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