Health officials: Outbreak risk ‘low’
CHARLES TOWN – The chief public health official in Jefferson County says that a case of tuberculosis was diagnosed six weeks ago in an employee at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town races. However, the case is unlikely to pose a major threat to public health, he said.
[cleeng_content id="991958059" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]“The risk is low,” said George Bernadino, the county’s health administrator. “We got [the employee] on medication right away.”
“People can be quick to panic, and it’s understandable,” he said. “Right now, there is no outbreak. We had one case, but one case isn’t an outbreak.”
Bernadino said the Health Department is working with state officials to monitor the situation and ensure that individuals who may have been exposed to the disease receive testing and, if necessary, treatment.
“We are in contact with the state. They will tell us if there is an outbreak. We don’t make that call,” he said. “We have all the key players working together.”
According to Bernadino, the Health Department has tested a number of employees who worked on the same shift as or attended training sessions with the diagnosed employee.
In addition to the one case that was diagnosed, Bernadino said a handful of individuals who came into contact with the employee have tested positive for exposure to the disease. “There are people that have the bacteria, but they are not symptomatic or contagious,” he said.
“You could go to any county, and there are a number of people who would test positive for the disease,” Bernadino said. “This happens all the time whether it’s TB or another disease.”
PNGI spokesperson Karen Bailey said the casino is working with the health department on the issue.
“We are cooperating with public health agencies on this matter,” Bailey said.
Bernadino said there are two forms of TB infection commonly seen in patients. One, called latent tuberculosis infection, or LTBI, does not cause any symptoms and is not contagious.
Active tuberculosis disease, on the other, is contagious and causes a variety of symptoms, including chest pains, fever, chills, a bad cough, coughing up blood, fatigue, loss of appetite and night sweats, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“In most people who breathe in TB bacteria and become infected, the body is able to fight the bacteria to stop them from growing,” explains the CDC’s website. “People with latent TB infection do not feel sick and do not have any symptoms. People with latent TB infection are not infectious and cannot spread TB bacteria to others.”
According to the CDC, if TB bacteria becomes active in the body and multiplies, the person will go from having latent TB infection to being sick with TB disease.
Individuals who have been diagnosed with LTBI are receiving further testing and monitoring, including blood tests and chest X-rays, Bernadino said.
“We did some lab tests on a bunch of employees. It was done based on who that individual might have come into contact with,” Bernadino said, adding that officials are trying to determine whether they will need to do any outreach to casino patrons.
Tuberculosis can be effectively treated with a six-to-nine month regimen of drug therapy, according to the CDC, but physicians do not always prescribe drugs in LTBI cases, if they think the risk of the disease progressing to active TB disease are low.
The Health Department offers skin TB tests Mondays from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., on Tuesdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and on Fridays 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.