Health officials in Long Beach have declared a public health emergency after one person died, and 9 people were hospitalized with tuberculosis (TB), an outbreak associated with a single-room occupancy hotel in Long Beach, California.

"As of April 29, 14 cases of TB disease have been associated with this outbreak; nine people have been hospitalized at some point in their illness; and one person has died," the City of Long Beach said in a news release.

The risk to the general public is low, and currently isolated to a distinct population which includes those who have "significant barriers to care, including homelessness and housing insecurity, mental illness, substance abuse and serious medical comorbidities."

The current move to declare a health emergency can help strengthen the city's preparedness and ability to respond to the outbreak, according to the city's Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis.

The officials have not revealed the identity of the hotel to protect patient privacy. However, they confirmed that it is a private hotel, not under contract with the City of Long Beach.

Meanwhile, an investigation revealed that approximately 170 people have likely been exposed to TB. The health department is conducting screening among those who stayed at the hotel at the time and their contacts who are likely exposed.

During the screening, if patients are diagnosed with active TB disease or latent TB infection, they will be provided treatment, officials said. Treatment typically involves the use of antibiotics.

TB is the second leading cause of death from infectious disease after COVID-19, causing a total of 1.3 million mortalities in 2022. Although transmitted through droplets, the bacteria causing TB does not quickly spread like the COVID-19 virus. The infection typically spreads through prolonged exposure. Living in crowded and poorly ventilated environments raises the risk of transmission.

Even if a person gets exposed to TB, they may not become infected and even if infected, they may not develop signs. Only 5-10% of people infected will eventually develop symptoms and contract TB disease.

Primary TB infection is the first stage when the immune system may destroy the germs that enter the body. However, if the bacteria survive and multiply, patients may develop signs such as low fever, cough, and fatigue.

In the next stage of infection called the latent stage, the bacteria may still thrive, but patients may not show signs and are not contagious. If the immune system fails to control the infection, it can spread throughout the lungs and other parts of the body, leading to the active stage of TB disease.

The active phase may happen soon after primary infection, or may occur months or years after latent TB infection. The symptoms include fever, chills, cough, coughing up blood, night sweats, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, and chest pain.