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County health officials urge California Grand Casino patrons to test for TB

on November 4, 2023

Contra Costa Health officials are advising anyone who visited the California Grand Casino in Pacheco in the past five years to be tested for tuberculosis, after confirming a cluster of 11 cases connected to the site.

“We are making this recommendation now because there is new evidence that TB may have spread among people who spent time at the casino from 2018-2023,” Dr. Meera Sreenivasan, Contra Costa County deputy health officer, said in a Thursday news release.

The news release said cases mostly involved casino patrons and staff. At a news conference Thursday, health officials said DNA testing had linked 10 of the cases and that the 11th was still being genetically tested.

The first reported case was in 2018 and the 11th was recently, Sreenivasan said at the news conference. She said the risk to the general community is low, but that infected people should get tested because they may not know they have TB.

Sreenivasan said tuberculosis bacteria can live in a person’s body for several years in the latent stage without causing symptoms or being contagious. However, people may become sick months or years after getting infected and then become contagious. That’s why it’s important to treat TB before symptoms develop.

California Grand Casino did not respond to Richmond Confidential’s request for a comment and has not posted any information about the outbreak on its website. But in a statement issued to several Bay Area news organizations, the casino said it is committed to ensuring customer safety and is working with the county on notifications. The statement said none of the cases “are currently contagious, nor do they involve our staff.” It also said there are “no ongoing sources of transmission in the card room.” 

The county’s news release mentions that both staff and patrons were infected and that health officials had notified 300 people “who may have been exposed to active TB,” not just non-contagious latent TB. The county also said officials had “not identified a current or ongoing source of transmission at the casino.” 

TB is spread when germs are inhaled, said Paul Leung, Contra Costa County communicable disease program chief. The bacteria is transmitted through droplets that can remain in the air — especially in enclosed spaces — for several hours, he said.

“It’s really important to know that TB is not spread by shared items,” he added.

The only way to know if you are infected is through TB screening, which is done by either a skin prick or blood test. Contra Costa Health advises getting in touch with your health care provider if you believe you might have been exposed to the bacteria. People without health insurance and those looking for more information, can contact the county’s TB Client Services Program at 925-313 6740.

The California Department of Public Health said Friday that it’s looking into whether cases of TB linked to the casino may have spread outside the county.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the country reported 8,300 cases of TB last year and up to 13 million people in the United States live with a latent infection.

(Top Photo: Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacilli, the bacteria responsible for causing tuberculosis, CDC archives)

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