Homeless man staying at churches tests positive for TB, possibly 117 exposed

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A homeless person, who officials said visited and stayed at several Mecklenburg County churches, has been diagnosed with tuberculosis.

Mecklenburg County Public Health Department officials said the person stayed at the Urban Ministry Center’s Room in the Inn program for the homeless.

Health officials are providing skin tests for the people who came in contact with the person.

Officials said the person stayed at the churches while symptomatic during the months of December, January and February.

Officials worked with the Urban Ministry Center to identify 117 people who may have been exposed to the patient. But they said it's a challenge because most of the people are homeless. Health officials said they will have to depend on various agencies to try and contact those who may have been infected.

"The county has a homeless service department and network in the community and we rely heavily on them to help us communicate," said Dr. Stephen Keener with the Mecklenburg County Health Department.

TB is a highly infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine and brain. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick.

But Keener said most people shouldn't be concerned for their health.

"You cannot spread TB just walking past somebody or being on a bus with somebody for even an hour or so," Keener said.

Click here for more information from the CDC on tuberculosis.

Urban Ministry released the following statement Friday:

"Urban Ministry Center is working closely with the Mecklenburg County Health Department to minimize risk to any persons who may have been exposed to an individual infected with tuberculosis (TB). This individual made use of our agency's Room in the Inn overnight emergency winter shelter program a total of 14 nights during the months of December 2016 and January 2017.

Urban Ministry Center assisted the Health Department in identifying program participants who may be at risk for exposure, and those persons are being contacted directly by Health Department officials. Urban Ministry Center was first notified of this possible exposure on March 21, 2017 by a Health Department official. Mecklenburg County Health Department has offered free TB testing for all those at risk of exposure. No additional cases have been reported at Urban Ministry Center's location or among our constituents."

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