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Death rate from tuberculosis in homeless alarmingly high: Study
Date:2/16/2011

people born in Canada, it is an emerging threat in many developing areas of the world. If a drug resistant strain of tuberculosis were introduced into the shelter system, it could set off an outbreak that would have serious public health implications and be very difficult to control. Financial resources to manage such an outbreak would dwarf the costs of strengthening preventive measures today, the researchers warn.

"There's been a lot of good work on tuberculosis prevention and treatment in the homeless sector in Toronto over the last several years, and ventilation systems in shelters have improved, although dedicated funds are needed to make further improvements," said Dr. Elizabeth Rea, a study co-author and associate medical officer of health with Toronto Public Health. "But we also need more affordable housing and we need better access to primary and specialized care for vulnerable homeless individuals."

Tuberculosis is a serious, contagious disease caused by a bacterial infection. Once a person is exposed to tuberculosis, the infection can remain dormant for years to decades before becoming active. However, persons with weakened immune systems, including many homeless persons, are at much greater risk of developing the active form of tuberculosis. While most tuberculosis cases are treatable, highly drug resistant strains of tuberculosis can be life threatening and require years of treatment to cure.

"We need to do a much better job in preventing tuberculosis from spreading in this vulnerable population, and in providing timely, effective clinical care for those who are affected by this disease," says Dr. Michael Gardam, co-author and director of the tuberculosis clinic at the Toronto Western Hospital. "We have shown in previous research that treatment in dedicated tuberculosis clinics by experienced staff plays a major role in improving the likelihood of survival from tuberculosis."


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Contact: Julie Saccone
sacconej@smh.ca
416-864-5047
St. Michael's Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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