A deadly strain of tuberculosis was killing homeless men. Here’s how one county fought back

ATLANTA ― Just three years ago, a tuberculosis outbreak here put Georgia on the verge of a public health emergency.

The drug-resistant TB had quietly spread for the better part of a decade among this city’s homeless population. Then in 2014, the stubborn strain turned fatal, killing at least three men and infecting dozens. The deadly “Atlanta strain” also cropped up in more than a dozen states nationwide. Alarmed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention intervened with emergency aid.

A multimillion-dollar effort to screen and treat vulnerable residents has worked: Officials announced this week that TB cases in Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta and and some of its surrounding suburbs, have dropped by nearly a third. They say the approach here can offer valuable lessons to other communities battling public outbreaks.

“The spread of TB was below the radar screen,” said Fulton County Chairman John Eaves. “Then, boom! It put us in the crossfires of national blame.”

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