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.