Records were withheld in Florida TB outbreak

Emails related to a Jacksonville, Florida, tuberculosis outbreak were withheld over the course of a four year period as health agencies released only select information to the public, according to a recent review.

The emails showed that the health department was hesitant to release public records to a reporter or to publicize a TB investigation at a local school. The health department only started to discuss the outbreak when an email was mistakenly sent to reporters, the Florida Times-Union reports.

"They shouldn't be trying to make this information private," Robin Lumb, Jacksonville's city councilman, said, according to the Florida Times-Union. "What you're really saying is the public isn't sophisticated enough to absorb the information."

In November 2008, the Jacksonville health department discovered an outbreak of tuberculosis in the Golden Retreat living facility. After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was called in to help, the health officials found 18 active TB cases, including two deaths. Overall, there have been 14 deaths in Jacksonville connected with the same TB strain.

In February, the CDC sent representatives to Jacksonville to assist in the investigation of an outbreak of the strain among the homeless population of the city.

Emails between Jimmy Keller, the deputy chief for the state's TB program, and Gail Grant, a CDC representative, showed that the decision not to release information about the investigation was made by another employee with the state's TB program.