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Health officials downplay risk of tuberculosis

An employee who dealt with the public at the Paddock Chevrolet Golf Dome in the Town of Tonawanda is suffering from tuberculosis, and four other employees have shown signs of exposure to the disease.

But Erie County Health Department and town officials said Saturday there is no danger to public health and no reason for patrons to stop frequenting the popular golf facility.

People are much more likely to catch the airborne disease from a family member, or someone they have close contact with on a daily basis, said Dr. Anthony J. Billittier IV, the county health commissioner.

"We've been aggressively reaching out for people who might be at risk in this case," Billittier said Saturday. "Most people who test positive for exposure to TB never get an active case of the disease, and you can't spread it without having an active case."

Councilman Dan Crangle, chairman of the town parks and recreation committee, also said the public was not at risk.

"The [county] Health Department is monitoring the situation. They've told us there is no reason to close the golf dome, and no reason for people to stay away," he said.

"The Health Department has told us people are not likely to catch tuberculosis from someone with the kind of casual contact you'd have with an employee at the Golf Dome."

The town employee is one of nine people in Erie County known to have active cases of TB, the health commissioner said.

The victim is a veteran male employee in his 60s, who worked in a kiosk where he dealt with patrons of the dome's driving range and miniature golf courses, according to town officials.

The employee contracted the disease about three weeks ago. Town officials said county health officials, as a precaution, tested 20 other people who have frequent contact with the man.

"They found that four other workers had been exposed to [tuberculosis], but they are not actively suffering from it," Crangle said. Tuberculosis is often spread by people spitting, shouting or coughing, and it usually takes the form of a lung infection. The disease can be life-threatening if not treated, but it can usually be cured with antibiotics, according to the U.S. Board of Certified Physicians.


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