Tuberculosis used to be cool, man, back when it was called “consumption” and badasses like Doc Holliday died from it. Everything used to cooler back in the day when people just dropped dead in the street from disease and whatnot, right? Well, if that’s the kind of thrill you’re after, set your GPS for Jacksonville and go hang out with some homeless people, because the worst TB outbreak in 20 years is going strong there, just in time for the state’s only TB hospital to shut down! But why is Rick Scott keeping this outbreak a secret? Does he want Florida’s lucrative disease-tourism industry to flounder?
If you want to be super-depressed about America and humanity, here, read this long Palm Beach Post article about the Florida TB outbreak, since its story is thoroughly entwined with the story of America’s treatment of the homeless and mentally ill. Basically, Patient Zero for the current epidemic was a schizophrenic who “circulated from hospital to jail to homeless shelter to assisted living facility, living in dorm housing in many locations,” coughing all the while (the coughing is documented!) before being properly diagnosed.
The good news is that this isn’t a drug-resistant strain of TB. The bad news is that the regimen of drugs to treat TB is complicated and difficult for the homeless and mentally ill to follow. But, once Patient Zero was diagnosed, he was sent to A.G. Holley, the state’s specialized tuberculosis hospital. Later, once the state realized it had a growing crisis on its hands, they did the logical thing and shut this TB hospital down! But don’t worry, Florida is just consolidating its health services, and the lawmakers who spearheaded this decision were well aware of the challenges Florida faced.
Meanwhile the champion of the health agency consolidation, Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, said he had not been informed of the Jacksonville outbreak and the CDC’s role as of Friday.
Well, but, um, surely Florida’s other top-notch hospitals can pick up the slack.
Last week, with A.G. Holley now closed, one [TB patient] was sent to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. The ones who will stay put in Jacksonville are being put up in motels, to make it easier for public health nurses to find them, Duval County health officials said.
Also, the Florida government says it didn’t release any information about the outbreak because they didn’t want Floridians to be any more disgusted by the homeless than they already are. Which is kind of nice, we guess? Meanwhile, Appalachian states, eager to compete in the “outbreaks of lung diseases you thought were eradicated” Olympiad, are seeing outbreaks of Black Lung, because it turns out that burdensome government workplace regulations (on coal dust exposure, say) aren’t so burdensome when they aren’t enforced. Happy coughing yourselves to death, everybody! [Palm Beach Post/NPR]
Josh Fruhlinger is the author of the upcoming novel The Enthusiast. Will pre-ordering it cure your lungs from what ails them? The FDA says no, but we say yes! Read the first chapter or just head on over to Kickstarter to reserve a copy!