Health officials have linked an outbreak of tuberculosis in Grand Forks to homeless visitors who exposed a family who gave them shelter, and are continuing to test hundreds of people for the disease.
Officials have identified eight active cases of the treatable but potentially fatal infection, in six adults and two children. One of the children is 5 months old and the other is an elementary school student. The adults are in their 20s and 40s. Three of the eight have been hospitalized, Public Health Director Don Shields told the Grand Forks Herald (http://bit.ly/ZB37NA ).
Shields said the outbreak is traceable to a family that recently came to the community.
"They are not refugees and not an immigrant family," he said. "They are folks who are homeless and don't have an address here in Grand Forks. They are Americans. They traveled through here and stayed with friends, and (TB) passed from them to" members of the family in the house, including the child in elementary school. The child was pulled from classes last week.
"We are testing the rest of the students in that classroom, and we want to see if the rest of the family might have been exposed," Shields said.
More than 250 people have been tested since the first three cases of TB were identified last month in the homeless visitors.
TB is a contagious disease that typically attacks the lungs, though it also can affect the kidneys, spine and brain. General symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, fever and night sweats. People with TB of the lungs also have coughing and chest pain.
TB cases are not common in North Dakota, according to state Health Department TB specialist Dee Pritschet. There were only 27 confirmed cases in the past four years.
"It's safe to say that TB can affect anyone of any race, color, creed or economic status," Shields said. "What has happened with the first three people we identified is they are people who are homeless, who most likely did not finish medications that were given to them."