Yacht said Florida had a particular need for a TB hospital because of the state’s large number of immigrants. TB remains a major problem in other areas of the world, and the CDC reports that in the United States, the TB rate is 12 times higher among foreign-born residents than those born in the U.S.
In fact, state statistics show that of the 156 active cases in Miami-Dade in 2011, 78 percent were foreign-born. Rivera says all known cases in Miami-Dade are under supervision, do not represent a public danger and do not require hospitalization.
“TB is nothing to be swept under the rug,” said Yacht, a former president of the Florida Association of County Health Officials. “It’s a very serious problem when it breaks out.”
That’s what happened in Jacksonville. In April, the CDC sent the state a report that Jacksonville had “one of the most extensive TB outbreaks that the CDC has been invited to assist with since the early 1990s.” The report discussed a dangerous strain of the disease that had produced 99 illnesses and 13 deaths.
The report received widespread attention in June after a Palm Beach Post reporter obtained it through a public records request. Yacht and others accused the Scott administration of covering up the outbreak so there wasn’t a controversy about closing A.G. Holley.
Florida Surgeon General John H. Armstrong replied with a letter saying that the deaths were spread out over eight years and in most cases the deaths were due to other causes, such as hepatitis C, “with TB being present in addition.” He said there was no attempt to hide the report.
Rivera said two cases with the Jacksonville strain had been found in Miami-Dade, one in 2009 and another in 2011. The two cases were unrelated and both were successfully treated, she said.
Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said in an email Tuesday that the state health department is negotiating a long-term contract with Jackson, so it’s unclear how much taxpayers will save. She said the Holley campus will be transferred to the Bureau of State Lands, which could sell it or use it for other purposes.