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Zion NP food worker being treated for tuberculosis, NPS says low risk to public

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Posted at 11:31 AM, Mar 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-19 21:56:55-04

ZION NATOINAL PARK, Utah - Public health officials are investigating a confirmed case of tuberculosis at Zion National Park, and they said at this point they believe the risk of wide-spread exposure is extremely low.

Park superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said the concessions employee notified supervisors of the diagnosis March 13. Since that time, doctors with the National Park Service public health office and the Southwest Utah Public Health Department have identified a handful of people who had close enough contact to be at risk.

“You want to control it,” said Southwest Public Health Department director Dr. David Blodgett. “You want to find out people who have been exposed, and take measures to treat them before it has a chance to become active.”

Bradybaugh said the employee works in the Zion lodge and has little contact with park visitors. The employee is being treated at a local hospital.

“Principally the concern is close associates of the individual that has been infected,” Bradybaugh said. “So those would be co-workers that worked in proximity to him on a regular basis.”

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infection, primarily present in the lungs. Dr. Blodgett said it’s spread through close, prolonged contact, so just being in the same room isn’t enough to catch the disease. He said it’s fairly uncommon in the United States compared to other countries. In Southwest Utah, there are between two and three cases every year.

“You hear Tuberculosis and you think, that’s something I don’t want to get. And that’s true,” Blodgett said. “That’s why the health department is in place, and we take seriously our investigation into any case of tuberculosis.”

TB is usually treated with antibiotics however, it can be fatal if untreated.

The Utah Dept. of Health said symptoms include:

  • Feeling sick or weak
  • Weight loss
  • Fever and night sweats
  • Chills
  • Severe cough
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of appetite

The health department said anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to TB should contact their doctor for testing.

Get complete information on TB from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.