WDAY: The News Leader

Published November 10, 2012, 09:01 PM

Local homeless shelters prepare for the possibility of a tuberculosis outbreak

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) -- Homeless shelters say they're prepared for the worst.

By: Becky Parker, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) -- Homeless shelters say they're prepared for the worst.

There are 8 confirmed cases of T-B in Grand Forks County, all starting in the area's homeless population. Shelters say curbing the spread of the disease can be difficult, so they're forced to have precautions in place.

Many homeless people get their only health care from an emergency room, that's why area shelters try to provide preventative care and a clean environment.

Jane Alexander, executive director of Churches United in Moorhead, says tuberculosis has started to come back in some bigger city shelters.

Jane Alexander: "Among people who are in crisis and living just basic survival, they are going to probably not be getting medical care regularly so they may actually carry TB for awhile and spread it for awhile."

That's why they are vigilant in keeping a clean environment.

Staff disinfect door handles twice a day, and keep dorm rooms spacious, so everyone isn't breathing the same air.

Over at the Dorothy Day House, where ten men stay at a time, routine cleaning and hand washing are high priorities.

Sonja Ellner/Dorothy Day Director: "We also require mandatory TB testing for the men that stay here. And we have a nurse that comes in on a weekly basis and she can help administer that."

Other shelters in the area have similar standards.

Family Health Care provides outreach nurses to area shelters for things like vaccinations or routine checkups.

Kim Seeb/program director: "We're developing relationships with them, we're getting them in to see primary care providers, so we can answer questions about managing diabetes, about heart disease, high blood pressure."

No cases of TB have been reported in the FM area, but shelters remain extra cautious. More than 250 people in Grand Forks County have been tested for TB since the first three cases were confirmed last month.