Compass Health in Everett, Wash., has screened more than 80 staff members and clients for TB after health officials discovered that five TB cases, including two deaths, may be linked. The first TB death occurred in 2010; the second earlier in 2012; and a third TB patient is currently hospitalized but is expected to recover. Health officials said that DNA tests revealed that all three had the same strain of the disease. Two other patients are being treated at home for active cases of TB, declared Dr. Gary Goldbaum, Snohomish Health District health officer, and they are being tested to see if they also have the same TB strain. Goldbaum emphasized that there is little risk of people getting ill if they did not have a connection to the Compass cases.
The two other persons being treated at home, as well as the hospitalized patient, were all Compass Health clients. Most of the potential contacts already have been screened, Goldbaum said. Compass Health provides mental health services in several counties throughout Washington. Compass Health is conducting screenings of 82 staff members and clients who work or obtain services at its building at 3322 Broadway. Tom Sebastian, Compass’s chief executive, explained that he was informed on September 19 at a meeting with health officials of the possible exposure at the Broadway building office, which provides a variety of mental health services.
Because tests from TB patients are sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for genetic typing, health officials were able to find the link. Testing can take several months to be completed; however, as new cases come in, scientists check a registry to see if there are matches with other reported cases, according to Goldbaum. Federal and state health officials notified the health district that there was a genetic match between the cases of the two men who died, even though their deaths were two years apart. “That’s what allowed us, two years after the first case, to start making a connection and identify a population that had been placed at risk,” declared Goldbaum. The health district has contacted hospitals and medical clinics in Snohomish County, requesting them to be on the alert for possible TB cases.