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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
CALIFORNIA: TB Cases Linked to Castro Bars
Matthew S. Bajko
January 8, 2009
Bay Area Reporter (01.08.09) - Thursday, January 08, 2009

Public health officials have traced several cases of tuberculosis to bars in the predominantly gay Castro neighborhood, prompting them to ask 140 area employees to be screened for the disease. More than 50 people reportedly have already been tested.

In a fact sheet distributed to bar owners, the San Francisco Department of Public Health expresses concern that a "cluster of highly infectious TB cases" may be "working its way through the SF gay community." The department is also notifying health service providers with gay and HIV-positive patients to watch for cases of TB.

"We don't want to cause panic in the community," said Dr. Masae Kawamura, director of the health department's TB control section. "We are targeting staff of the bars because they would have the most exposure than patrons." The poor ventilation typical of bars puts their employees at greater risk, he said.

According to the fact sheet, the first two cases were linked to a retail commercial establishment in the South of Market neighborhood. Three additional cases were diagnosed, and "contacts of the fifth and third case admitted to going to bars in the Castro and named the bar/club employing the fourth index patient. All three of these individuals frequented many of the bars in the Castro during their infectious periods," the fact sheet reported.

Four of the five cases are gay men in their 20s; three are HIV-positive. All but one are US natives who would otherwise be considered at low risk for TB.

The health department has set up a special screening site at Magnet, the gay men's health center in the Castro, which will operate during the first two weeks of January.

Supervisor Bevan Dufty emphasized that "members of the public are at extremely low risk" and should not be concerned about patronizing Castro bars.