JONESVILLE — The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control is continuing its investigation at the Belk Distribution Center after an employee there tested positive for tuberculosis.
In a statement released Thursday, DHEC Public Information Officer Roberty Yanity stated that the investigation, which began in mid-June after the agency as informed of a possible case of tuberculosis at the distribution center, is continuing and that more testing will be done in the future.
It states that “DHEC was first notified of the potential TB case at Belk the second week of June. The DHEC TB team began assessment of the situation shortly thereafter and based on the information gathered, began a contact investigation. It is ongoing.”
It further states that “as part of the investigation, individuals at the facility were identified for testing and were notified the week of June 26. An initial testing session was conducted on June 28. Further testing is ongoing, and a second round will be conducted in approximately 8-10 weeks.”
As for what a contact investigation is, it states that “in general terms during a contact investigation, DHEC staff identify contacts by interviewing the person who has TB and by visiting the places where that person spends time regularly. Contacts generally include family members, roommates, close friends, coworkers, classmates, and others who were exposed to the person who is infected. DHEC also conducts an on-site visit to the home and workplace to assess the environment.”
Yanity said that DHEC could not comment further, but did provide a copy of the following letter sent to the employees at the Belk Distribution Center concerning the situation and what is being done by DHEC and Belk to address it.
An individual associated with your workplace has been identified as having tuberculosis (TB) disease. TB is a lung infection that can be spread through the air by a person with symptoms of active TB disease. It can be effectively treated with antibiotics.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and your employer have been working together to determine if staff at your workplace were at risk for becoming infected with TB. We are identifying any individuals who may be at risk due to close contact or sharing airspace with an individual with active TB disease. Individuals who may have been exposed to the TB germ at work will be notified. Testing will be arranged for those persons to determine if they are infected.
We understand that the thought of being infected with TB can be concerning, but at this time there is no known on-going risk for transmission of TB in your workplace. Our expert staff will ensure that the investigation is done efficiently and effectively with as little impact to you as possible. We will also provide continuing communication on our testing efforts. As mentioned, TB can be treated effectively with antibiotics, and our medical consultants are happy to answer any questions you may have. You can also visit our web site at www.scdhec.com/tb for more information.
Individuals identified as being at risk for exposure will be tested for TB first. As the investigation progresses, others may be recommended for testing. TB testing will be done by a blood test or by a tuberculin skin test (TST) and may require a chest x-ray for a complete assessment. A positive TB test could mean a person has been infected with TB or it could be a false positive. If a person has a positive test, further evaluation will be done to rule out or diagnose TB disease. Someone who has been infected cannot spread the germ unless they have symptoms of TB disease, such as a bad cough that usually has been present for weeks, pain in the chest, and coughing up blood or sputum. Anyone with these symptoms should seek medical care immediately and tell their physician that they may have been exposed to TB. TB can be effectively treated with antibiotics.
If you are recommended for testing, DHEC will work with your employer and provide TB testing at no cost. Individuals who have been recommended for testing have the option of having testing performed by their own physician at their own cost. In the event you elect to have your own physician perform testing, please show this letter to your health care provider. DHEC requests that your physician report the test results to DHEC.
Not everyone infected with the TB germ becomes sick. Only about 5-10% of persons infected become ill from TB. Medication is available to help prevent people infected with the TB germ from becoming ill from active TB disease. If you have a positive test for TB infection during this investigation, DHEC will provide antibiotics at no cost.
DHEC and your employer thank you for your cooperation during this on-going and developing situation.