CDC sends scientists to respond to Los Angeles TB outbreak

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is sending scientists to Los Angeles to launch a new attack against an outbreak of tuberculosis in the city's skid row neighborhood.

Health officials identified approximately 4,650 people who were potentially exposed to the disease and efforts are underway to find the people for testing and treatment. Officials are concerned that the outbreak could spread beyond skid row without immediate action, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Sixty of the 78 cases since 2007 in the neighborhood were among homeless people who live on or near skid row. Eleven people died from TB in the area since 2007.

"This is the largest outbreak in a decade," Jonathan Fielding, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We are really putting all of our resources into this."

Homeless people are at particular risk of getting TB and going undiagnosed because of limited access to healthcare, poor nutrition and hygiene, and ongoing contact with infected people. Overcrowding, substance abuse problems and mental health issues can also get in the way of treatment, which lasts six to nine months.

Los Angeles Police Department Senior Lead Officer Deon Joseph said that he has seen nearly every kind of disease run through the neighborhood, including HIV, TB, and hepatitis A, B and C.

"Historically, skid row has been kind of a...for lack of a better term...a Petri dish for a whole lot of things," Joseph said, according to "As long as I've known it and we just got to find a way to change that."

Salina Cranor, a CDC representative, said that the agency will send staff to the area within the next two weeks, reports.