February 27, 2013 – LOS ANGELES, CA – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is dispatching scientists to Los Angeles to mount a new attack on an outbreak of tuberculosis on skid row. Health workers have identified about 4,650 people who were probably exposed and are trying to track them, according to news reports. Homeless shelters in Skid Row are increasing efforts to urge people to get tested after state and local public health officials alerted them to the outbreak earlier this month. But people who are not homeless often come in contact with the homeless in public places such as libraries, where often the homeless spend their days or in public transportation and in any place where there is close contact indoors, such as a house of worship, park classroom, restroom, or community center. Some of the homeless pick up TB germs in prison or jail and then spread it to the homeless on the street, including those who are able to spend afternoons in movie theaters near where they hang out or can reach with public transportation. Others may spread TB microbes at homeless shelters. Check out today’s news report, “Skid Row TB epidemic is ‘alarming,’ but the community is well-versed in disease.” Downtown Los Angeles and its hotels attract tourists from Europe and the U.S.A. Los Angeles County health officials have asked federal officials for help to contain a worsening tuberculosis outbreak among the homeless in its downtown area. County health officials here have identified 78 cases of a particular strain of the TB bacteria. But TB germs aren’t limited to the poor and the homeless in neighborhoods such as Skid Row. Recently live TB bacteria was collected just by swiping the eating tray in a plane, where people who are not limited to the homeless travel globally and nationally. TB bacteria is normally carried in “droplets” ranging from 1 – 5 microns, and M. tuberculosis itself ranges from 0.4 – 1.4 microns in size, so I would recommend a mask with a HEPA filter, which filters particles down to 0.3 microns. The recirculated air in airplane cabins is notorious for carrying germs as well as chemical contaminants. Many people wear masks when traveling on airplanes. Homeless use public libraries during the day for access to restrooms and the Internet. It’s easy for TB bacteria to spread from the Skid Row homeless who frequently spend all day in public libraries to use the bathroom where they wash up or to use the computer. School kids coming into a library branch known for attracting homeless people can be exposed to TB microbes just by sitting near the homeless at a public library. –Examiner
Masks: The Los Angeles Police Department has asked officers who patrol the Skid Row neighborhood to wear protective masks and minimize face-to-face contact with individuals who might be infected with tuberculosis. The move comes days after CDC scientists were dispatched to Los Angeles County to help officials investigate and curb a TB outbreak that has sickened nearly 80 downtown residents and claimed 11 lives since 2007. –C.healthline
Despite the eeriness of the case, the Los Angeles TB outbreak has no connection to the grizzly homicide, and discovery of the body of 21 year old Canadian tourist Elisa Lam, whose badly decomposed body was discovered in a water tank at the Cecil hotel.
Movie tie in: In the 2005 paranormal movie, Dark Water, eerie things take place after a body is supposedly found in a water tank on the ceiling of an old apartment building. In the movie, the girl was left alone in the abandoned apartment and fell into the water tank, which Veeck had left open. He was aware of her body, which was why he refused to fix the water problem plaguing the complex. Among the paranormal oddities in the movie, is dark water leaking down through the ceiling in adjacent apartments, and the elevators not working. Fast forward to 2013, leading up to the discovery of Elisa Lam’s body in the water tank, at the Cecil hotel, ‘”The water did have a funny taste,” Sabrina Baugh, a guest at the Cecil, told CNN, which adds that Baugh and her husband had used the water for eight days. ‘We never thought anything of it … We thought it was just the way it was here,’ Baugh said, adding that black water would come out of the shower when the tap was turned on.’” AW, TEP
Hotel’s dark history: The Cecil Hotel has served as temporary home for no less than two serial killers: the legendary “Nightstalker” Richard Ramirez and Austrian Euro-ghoul Jack Unterweger. In 1985, Ramirez paid $14 a night to stay on the 14th floor of the Cecil, where he killed 14 people. Six years later, Unterweger murdered several prostitutes while living at the Cecil. The Cecil Hotel was also the scene of a 1962 suicide, in which 27 year-old Pauline Otten jumped out of her window and landed on a pedestrian, killing both. Two years later, Goldie Osgood, known by some as the Pershing Square Pigeon Lady, was found raped and strangled at the Cecil. It is also widely rumored that Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia, patronized the seedy hotel and the bar next door shortly before her notorious disappearance in 1947. Perhaps, even weirder, in the movie Dark Water (about the disappearance of a body in a water tank), the main character’s name is Dahlia and her daughter’s name is Cecilia. And if that wasn’t strange enough, the test for TB, is called a Lam-Elisa, which is the reversed name of the missing woman whose discovered body comes on the heels of virulent TB outbreak in Los Angeles. However, there is no established connection with Elisa Lam’s body, or cause of death to the TB outbreak spreading among the homeless in Los Angeles. –GD, TEP
Video surveillance of Elisa Lam’s bizarre behavior leading up to her death