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FOR RELEASE: April 2, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Health Officials Clarify TB Infection Risk to Calm Fears

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) released information today to clarify aspects of restaurant exposure related to the recent tuberculosis (TB) outbreak in southwestern Oklahoma reported last month.

"Possible exposure to the initial TB case occurred in May 2001 and there are no persons with contagious TB working in any Altus restaurants at this time," said OSDH TB Control Officer Dr. Jon Tillinghast.

TB infection is transmitted by breathing air containing minute particles (droplet nuclei) containing the "TB bug". TB is not acquired by eating or drinking; by touching silverware, plates or glasses; or by touching a diseased person or from paper, such as a restaurant tab. The risk of acquiring TB infection is related to the amount of time a person spends in a confined space with a diseased person. Face-to-face contact with a waiter by a patron is normally only a very few minutes per visit.

"Transmission of infection occurred to only a few restaurant co-workers who worked closely with the initial case. The casual contact any restaurant patron may have had in the restaurant environment makes it highly unlikely that any patron acquired TB infection," Dr. Tillinghast said.

Any person concerned that he or she may have acquired TB from a restaurant exposure or any other type of exposure should contact the Jackson County Health Department or other health department to receive a TB skin test that shows whether that person is infected or not.

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