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Outreach connects people living homeless to care

Last month, we told you about our work to locate people who may have been exposed to a person ill with tuberculosis who spent time at Tacoma Rescue Mission.

Our staff has been hard at work in the weeks since. We began contacting the people potentially exposed. We provided them with screenings for TB and access to other health services. And because TB spreads only in highly specific situations, we believe we know who is at risk.

An opportunity to help people in need connect with services.

Between June 11-27, we screened 77 people for TB. We found no active TB cases. This is good news.

We also connected people with other services they might need. We and partner agencies offered:

  • Hepatitis C screening.
  • HIV screening.
  • Hepatitis A vaccination.

Now, we are working to contact fewer than 20 people who were at higher risk of possible TB exposure. They stayed at the mission between mid-August and early September in 2018 and slept nearest to the person ill with TB.

TB investigations take time, resources and partnerships.

We want to connect those who may need treatment and other healthcare services to our partners—Sea Mar Healthcare for the Homeless and the Tacoma Pierce County Coalition to End Homelessness.

We are working with these partners to take every step to reach this higher risk group, such as:

  • Working with Tacoma Rescue Mission’s street outreach program.
  • Consulting with Pierce County Department of Emergency Management about using its PC Alert emergency alert system.

This is public health at work to protect all people in our communities—including those living homeless.

TB is not easy to catch. A person would have to spend a long time in close contact with a person infected with TB to catch it.

People living homeless are at greater risk of contracting TB. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conditions such as substance abuse, weakened immune systems, and living in shelters can increase the likelihood of spreading the disease. Even so, rates of TB in the United States are much lower than in the rest of the world. The U.S. gets about 9,000 cases of active TB disease a year. Washington averages about 200 cases annually. In 2018, Pierce County had 19 cases.

Public health works to improve community health.

We want to make sure anyone who needs treatment for TB gets it, but that’s just the beginning. Along with our partners, we are working to improve the health of people living homeless. We connect with our healthcare partners to ensure they have the information they need to serve them. We also offer our shelter partners education and information about controlling disease spread. To learn more about our work to improve the health of people living homeless, contact Emily Less.

Learn more about tuberculosis and our work to protect you from it at