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November 8, 2004
Testing for active tuberculosis to begin in shelters
Dr. David McKeown, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health, announced today that
Toronto Public Health will begin testing for active tuberculosis (TB) among
staff and clients in the City's downtown male and co-ed shelters and drop-in

Dr. McKeown reported the recent identification of two active TB cases among
staff at the Maxwell Meighen men's shelter. Four other staff at this shelter
recently tested positive on TB skin tests. The strain of TB is the same as one
previously identified in the shelter system over a period of the past three

"We are looking for any active cases that may be a source of infection to
others," said Dr. McKeown. "Finding cases among shelter staff is a signal that
transmission of the disease has occurred and there is a risk of infection
circulating among this population. It is now necessary to launch a testing
program to prevent and control the spread of the disease."

Dr. McKeown said the two staff were healthy individuals who received treatment
early and do not pose a risk of exposing others. "Early identification and
treatment is essential in fighting TB and preventing transmission to others.
While the risk of transmission is low, people who are homeless and underhoused
are particularly vulnerable to illness, and testing for active cases is a
necessary precaution."

Sputum testing will begin this week and will include on-site education for
staff and clients at shelters. The program of active case finding will be
conducted with the support of community partners and is expected to continue
for several weeks.

There is an average of 350 to 400 TB cases reported in Toronto each year, with
about 10 to 15 of these occurring among the homeless and underhoused
population. For more information about TB, visit our Web site at

Media Contact:
Frank Giorno, Toronto Public Health, 416-338-7974



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