Florida, our nation’s great nucleus of ridiculous, disturbing local news events, has for months been undergoing what the Center of Disease Control is calling the worst tuberculosis outbreak in two decades, which according to a piece in the Palm Beach Post, the governor’s office has kept under wraps.
Back in April, the CDC issued a rather harried 25-page report describing the outbreak, which so far has killed 13 and infected 99—mostly poor black men. According to the report, in the last two years an estimated 3,000 have been exposed at Jacksonville’s homeless shelters, mental health clinic and jails, while only 253 have been inspected for the illness. “The high number of deaths in this outbreak emphasizes the need for vigilant active case finding, improved education about TB, and ongoing screening at all sites with outbreak cases,” it stated.
This report reached officials just 9 days after Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill cutting Department of Health funds and closing A.G. Holley State Hospital in Lantana, a facility used for the last 60 years to treat tough TB cases. Nonetheless, the report “went unseen by key decision makers around the state. At the health agency, an order went out that the TB hospital must be closed six months ahead of schedule.”
The reasons why the report went unseen by key decision makers are unclear.
TB is a pricey and complicated illness to treat, and becomes much more so if patients cannot stay on meds, causing med-resistant strains develop. Duval County Health Director Dr. Bob Harmon says his department “will need more resources if it is to contain the current TB outbreak.”
In 2008, when the TB outbreak hit, his department employed 946 staff with revenues of $61 million. “Now we’re down to 700 staff and revenue is down to $46 million,” Harmon said. “It has affected most areas of the organization.”
Governor Rick Scott has historically cut health and human services while issuing corporate tax cuts, reports Think Progress. Just last year, the health department took a total budget cut of $55.6 million, more than enough to cover Harmon’s deficit.