Health Care

Miami-Dade may have rare tuberculosis fatality

A doctor examines the x-rays of a tuberculosis patient at a clinic in Brooklyn, New York.
A doctor examines the x-rays of a tuberculosis patient at a clinic in Brooklyn, New York. Getty Images

Tuberculosis, an infectious airborne disease that has been in steady decline across the nation, may have killed a woman in Miami-Dade.

Miami Herald news partner CBS4 reported Monday that a 28-year-old nurse from Colombia diagnosed with TB at Aventura Hospital had died on Saturday.

But Olga Connor, director of the communication and legislative affairs with Miami-Dade Health Department, would not confirm the death or comment on any TB case, saying only that the public was not at risk. A spokeswoman for the hospital said she did not know anything about the case.

It was unclear if the victim worked in South Florida or was a visitor. But Channel 4 reported that those who have lived or been in close contact with the woman are being tested.

Oswaldo Curbelo, TB survalience mananger for the Florida Department of Health, would not confirm that but said if there is a TB case, the county would contact people at potential risk. He said there was no reason for concern.

“We do a contact investigation anytime we have a case in the county,” Curbelo said. “We make sure that everyone tested.”

Cases of TB still crop up across the country, with Miami-Dade reporting 135 in 2013, according to the Florida Health Department website. Last year, there was one reported death related to TB, according to Curbelo.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said there were 9,582 reported TB cases nationwide that same year.

CDC spokeswoman Salina Smith said the once widely feared disease is treatable, and with proper medical care, fatalities are uncommon.

“The [death] rate is low,” she said. “It is less than 1 percent. We do a good job of testing and treating TB in this country.”

TB is a disease caused by bacteria that can spread by coughs, sneezes or other airborne transmissions. It usually attacks the lungs but can damage other organs, including the brain, kidneys, or spine.

While the bacteria can remain in the air for hours, the CDC says it typically takes prolonged exposure to become infected so friends, family or co-workers are among those most likely to face serious risk of infection.

In a recently released report, the CDC found the potentially deadly disease remains on the decline but also that progress toward eradication has slowed.

The report also found some trends that suggest that diverse communities like Miami-Dade might be more vulnerable. The TB rate among foreign-born individuals is 13 times higher than among those born in the U.S., according to the CDC Compared to whites, the TB rate for Asians is 29 times higher and was eight times higher among both blacks and Hispanics.

On the positive side, most patients who have received drug treatment for at least two weeks cannot spread the disease.

Tuesday, coincidentally, was World Tuberculosis Day.

For more information and resources, visit the Miami-Dade County Health Department Tuberculosis Control and Prevention website at or the CDC’s TB page.