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 October 23rd, 2013  
Possible tuberculosis exposure is under investigation, according to St. Lucie County Sheriff Mascara
On Monday, Oct. 21, the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office was notified by the Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County of a possible tuberculosis exposure, according to Sheriff Ken J. Mascara.

"The Health Department reported that a prisoner we had in custody at the St. Lucie County jail from Aug. 3 until Sept. 25 tested positive for tuberculosis ('TB') upon admission to the Florida Department of Corrections, which is the state prison system," Sheriff Mascara said.

When the prisoner was originally arrested and detained at the St. Lucie County jail on Aug. 3, he was medically screened and tested for this contagious disease by Corizon Medical Inc., the contracted health care provider for the county jail. Follow-up testing for TB along with a complete medical history and physical were conducted on Aug. 12 by Corizon at the county jail.

The medical screening and subsequent testing were negative for TB, and the prisoner did not display any signs or symptoms associated with active TB.

The Health Department in conjunction with the Sheriff's Office and Corizon Medical are conducting an investigation to determine if any exposure occurred while the prisoner was in the St. Lucie County jail. The investigation is focused on any individuals who had direct contact with the infected individual. All individuals identified will be screened for TB, and follow-up testing will be conducted 12 weeks from the last day the subject was housed at the St. Lucie County jail, which was Sept. 25.

Medical testing has commenced for all employees and jail inmates who have been identified as having direct contact and possible exposure.

"Our TB Program nurses routinely perform contact investigations to identify exposures and provide top quality care to any potentially-infected individuals through a statewide system of TB care," said Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County Administrator Larry Lee. "We are proceeding according to Centers for Disease Control protocol, making certain that immediate close contacts are identified, tested, and, if infected, provided with medical preventative treatment. The Florida Department of Health Central Office provides technical expertise and logistical support to local health departments and is advising us in this investigation."

TB is a disease that is still common in many parts of the world, and there are cases of TB being treated in St. Lucie County at any given time. TB is a treatable and curable disease. In those who develop an active case of TB disease, symptoms may include constant coughing for more than three weeks, fever, night sweats, weight loss, and sometimes coughing up blood.

A person with TB disease can pass it to others through airborne particles most commonly through coughing. It is not spread through direct contact with surfaces or eating utensils.

The number of TB cases varies from year to year, but has been declining in Florida and St. Lucie for the past 20 years.

"The health and safety of staff and inmates are a top priority, and we are doing everything necessary to address the situation in cooperation with the Sheriff's Office," Larry Lee said.

More information on TB is available at www.cdc.gov/tb.

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