[Hpn] TB resurfaces in Toronto shelter

Graeme Bacque gbacque@colosseum.com
Thu, 11 Dec 2003 06:02:22 -0500


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December 11, 2003 01:00 AM The Toronto Star

Man who stayed at shelter has TB
Clinic set up at Seaton House to screen cases

Cramped conditions may lead to outbreak

ELAINE CAREY
MEDICAL REPORTER

A homeless man who spent 2 1/2 months at the Seaton House shelter has 
been diagnosed with tuberculosis.

The man brought TB with him from a country where the disease is endemic, 
Toronto Public Health said yesterday. It has set up screening clinics at 
the shelter for staff, residents and volunteers who may have spent time 
with the man, who is now being treated in hospital.

Information is also being sent to all emergency rooms, shelters, drop-in 
centres and homeless-care providers to alert them of the case and to ask 
them to look out for symptoms of TB, said Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Toronto's 
associate medical officer of health.

While the board has a fairly good list of the men who stayed at the 
shelter, "there's always a concern about tracking people down," she 
said. "We're working very hard with Seaton House to ensure we contact 
everyone."

Toronto has about 400 cases of TB each year, about 10 to 15 of them in 
shelters.

The case is exactly what advocates for the homeless have been warning 
could lead to another TB outbreak because of overcrowding in the 
shelters that contributes to spreading the disease, said Beric German, 
of the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee. Cramped conditions are one 
focus of an inquest that began last month into the death of Joseph 
Teigesser, one of three homeless people who died during a TB outbreak in 
Toronto shelters in 2001-2.

--------------------------
`We're really frightened of these developments.... We will have TB 
outbreaks for some time.'
Beric German,
Toronto Disaster Relief Committee.
--------------------------

The committee lobbied for two years to get the inquest, but after four 
days it was postponed until March because the inquest counsel was made a 
judge.

German and other disaster relief members were meeting to discuss how to 
get action on some of their recommendations when news of the new case 
was released yesterday, he said.

"We're really frightened of these developments....We will have TB 
outbreaks for some time," he said.

"We had hoped the inquest would have sparked people to begin working on 
these issues, but now there's this new delay and we're going into winter."

The committee wants the provincial government to spend more on TB 
prevention programs and provide rent supplements to get people out of 
shelters, among other things.

"We're going to ask the government to implement some of the 
recommendations we've come up with. That's all we can do now," he said.

The committee also hopes to meet with Mayor David Miller to ask for 
measures like expanding new shelters downtown and including more 
affordable housing in redevelopment plans for the waterfront, he said.