By Joel Hall
The Clayton County Board of Health (CCBOH) confirmed on Wednesday that an employee of the Walmart Supercenter on Ga. Highway 85 in Riverdale had tested positive for tuberculosis (TB) earlier this month.
That incident, according to CCBOH Public Information Officer Veronda S. Griffin, prompted the health department to conduct TB testing Tuesday of all employees at the Riverdale Walmart location.
"There is no information about how [the employee] contracted it," Griffin said. "We just know that [the employee] did contract it, and we started doing what we needed to do as a health department. We went to the store to tell them what happened to their employee and gave them a chance to be tested in order to give them peace of mind."
Griffin said the CCBOH became aware of the employee's health in mid-July, after a standard health check-up from a local doctor's office revealed signs that the employee may be infected with TB.
"The patient initially went to another health-care provider for services where the TB skin test is routinely given as part of the services," Griffin said. "That health-care provider notified the CCBOH after that initial visit to inform us that the patient was potentially at risk for TB. We started him on the medication [for TB] in the mid part of July. The confirmation that it was positive was in the first week of August."
According to WebMD, TB is a bacterial infection that can spread through the lymph nodes and bloodstream to any organ in the body -- and most often is found in the lungs. In their active state, TB bacteria can destroy organ tissue and be fatal if left untreated. TB is a disease which can be transmitted by air, and symptoms can include fatigue and weakness, loss of appetite, unexpected weight loss, shortness of breath, chest pain, fever, chills, and a cough with thick, sometimes bloody, sputum.
Griffin said the chances of spreading TB in an open-air environment, such as Walmart, are slim, and said that Clayton residents who shop at the Riverdale Walmart should not be alarmed.
"We want people to know that there isn't some outbreak of TB at the Walmart," Griffin said. "To contract TB from somebody, you would have to have long, prolonged contact with that person and be in a place that was not properly ventilated. For you to walk past somebody in the street and get it ... the chances are minimal."
Griffin did not know whether the employee was still working at the Riverdale Walmart on Wednesday. A spokesperson for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., could not be reached Wednesday evening.