Tuberculosis Case Found in SoCal

Health officials say they are investigating a single case of the highly contagious illness

By Samantha Tata
|  Tuesday, Nov 12, 2013  |  Updated 9:00 PM PDT
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A case of tuberculosis is discovered at a jewelry manufacturer in Glendale. Now, Los Angeles County Health officials wonder if it is an isolated case, or a bigger problem. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from Glendale for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013.

Gordon Tokumatsu

A case of tuberculosis is discovered at a jewelry manufacturer in Glendale. Now, Los Angeles County Health officials wonder if it is an isolated case, or a bigger problem. Gordon Tokumatsu reports from Glendale for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013.

A case of tuberculosis has been found in Glendale, according to Los Angeles County health officials.

Details about the case were scarce Tuesday afternoon. Health officials said they are investigating a single case found at Simon G. Jewelry, a jewelry manufacturer located at 528 State St. in Glendale.

“We continue to work closely with the business to perform testing of staff who may have been exposed to TB. The testing will help determine who may be at risk and whether these individuals require care,” the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a statement Tuesday.

Tuberculosis, or TB, is caused by a bacterium that usually infects the lungs, but can attack any part of the body, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If not treated with a months-long antibiotic regimen, TB can be fatal.

The illness is spread through the air when a person with tuberculosis of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings, secreting bacteria through their mouths which then can be breathed in by others.

It's unusual though not unheard of for a case of TB to occur in an urban area where international populations live, like in Glendale, where the latest case was found, according to Dr. Jon Willen, with West Hills Medical Center.

Willen said it's highly unlikely that the illness could be transmitted through manufactured items, like jewelry made at Simon G. Jewelry.

A director for the location, which employs 60 workers, was not available for comment Tuesday.

Some 9,945 cases of TB were reported in the U.S. in 2012, marking a 5.4 percent decrease from the year before, according to the latest statistics available from the CDC.

California, Texas, New York and Florida accounted for half of last year’s total cases of TB nationwide, the report found.

This year, there have been at least two TB outbreaks in the Southland.

The contagious disease was found in LA’s homeless population in February. A month later, hundreds of students and staff at Cal Poly Pomona were urged to take a TB skin test after a student at the school tested positive for tuberculosis.

Symptoms of TB include a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer, chest pain, coughing up blood, weakness or fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, chills, fever and night sweats, according to the CDC.

A vaccine against the disease is not widely used in the U.S., but is often given to infants and children in other countries where TB is common, the CDC said.

Those who think they’ve been exposed to the disease are urged to contact their doctor or local health department to determine if testing is necessary. Not everyone infected with the TB bacterium comes sick, the agency said.

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