Health officials confirmed Friday that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is monitoring a patient with extensively drug resistant tuberculosis -- a version of the contagious lung infection that resists most forms of treatment.
According to Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the county's public health department, the patient contracted tuberculosis -- which is transmitted through the air in the droplets emitted when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks -- while abroad. The illness is unrelated to cases of tuberculosis that have been reported among homeless people on skid row.
Fielding said the general public was not at risk.
"It's a concern in the sense that these are very difficult-to-treat patients," he said, adding that it was important to isolate people with drug-resistant TB and check in on those who've come in contact with them to monitor any spread of the infection.
"We've done that," he said, noting that the patient is hospitalized and that county health officials are working with state and federal public health teams to treat and monitor his or her illness.
This is the eighth case of extensively drug resistant TB to strike Los Angeles County in the last 10 to 15 years, Fielding said. Nationwide, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 63 cases of the disease were reported between 1993 and 2011. It's not surprising that L.A. would have a relatively high incidence of the disease because it is a port of entry for many people coming to the U.S. from other countries, Fielding said.