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April 19, 2001 02:49am
Tuberculosis Strikes Exotic Dancers in Kansas
Source: Reuters Health
by: Emma Patten-Hitt, PhD

(ATLANTA, GA) -- Exotic dancing may be hazardous to your health, at least in Wichita, Kansas, where an outbreak of tuberculosis (TB) was reported among seven exotic dancers and individuals who came into contact with them.

The outbreak evolved over six years and included 18 patients with active TB and 76 others with latent infection. According to researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, the incident underscores the importance of maintaining health systems to identify, contain and treat TB, even in areas where the incidence is low.

``Tuberculosis hasn't disappeared in this country,'' Dr. Reuben Varghese of the CDC, told Reuters Health. ``But it can be eliminated and it is declining, although we will have to maintain and enhance our defense systems, even in areas with few TB cases such as Kansas.''

According to Varghese, there was nothing notable about the fact that the patients were exotic dancers. The disease spread, he said, simply because the dancers shared airspace with others. Eventually, seven dancers, one woman who did not work as a dancer, seven men and three children were infected with active TB.

``TB is an airborne disease that knows no boundaries,'' he said. ``What the investigation illustrates is that transmission was able to occur in both adult entertainment clubs and homes among the women and children who shared airspace.''

Varghese also noted that anyone with a respiratory illness can have a cough with sputum production--a symptom of TB. For this reason, the infected individuals in Kansas may not have suspected that they had tuberculosis, he said.

According to the report of the outbreak in the April 20th issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Kansas health authorities asked the CDC to assist with the investigation in January 2001. Within four months they had identified the 18 patients with active TB and dozens of other with latent disease, meaning they did not show signs of TB but could develop an active form of the disease later on.

The first patient was diagnosed in 1994 and the last five were diagnosed in 2000, the report notes.

Limited resources may have played a role in the spread of the disease, Varghese said. According to the CDC, Kansas has two full-time and one part-time worker dedicated to TB control.

``Public health officials only have certain resources available and when other diseases are more prominent, there will be a push from the public to care for those diseases,'' he said, but ``ongoing efforts toward TB control are necessary and funds should not be shifted.''

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