Nightclubs react to unresponsiveness claims in TB probe - Montgomery Alabama news.

Nightclubs react to unresponsiveness claims in TB probe

Several nightclubs say claims by ADPH that they've been unresponsive in a tuberculosis probe aren't true. (Source: WSFA 12 News) Several nightclubs say claims by ADPH that they've been unresponsive in a tuberculosis probe aren't true. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

The Alabama Department of Public Health says it's narrowed down possible connections in multiple cases of pulmonary tuberculosis to several Dothan nightclubs. In a press release sent out by ADPH, it named The Blue Bar, Chill Lounge, Club Escape, The G-spot, and Imani Loungebar as places people frequented who had the disease.

In the ADPH press release, it said the health department made numerous attempts to reach out to affected clubs for assistance in combating the public health threat but hadn’t had much success.

WSFA 12 News reached out to all the nightclubs named in the press release. Representatives from The Blue Bar, Chill Lounge, Club Escape, and The G-Spot released statements, each refuting claims they had been uncooperative.

Those responses are below.

Since 2016, there have been at least 8 reported cases, according to ADPH – including one in 2018. Because of the number of confirmed cases, it is considered an outbreak, "because they have eight cases that were all linked through genotyping, that all admitted frequenting the clubs,” according to Pam Barrett, Director for the Division of TB Control with ADPH.

Barrett says they have identified "Patient 0" or the person who may have started the spread locally. 

“They are all hanging out at different clubs, but there are one or two in particular that people say our cases went to,” Barrett said. She declined to specify which clubs are of most concern citing they may identify the origin of the original cases. She says all of the clubs listed are impacted because some of the same people frequent them.

Health officials are setting up a free TB testing event to help people find out if they're infected.

“You can have latent TB and not be sick. People think it’s not going to happen to them, but if you have the TB germ in your body the only way they’ll know is if they get this test and then we can treat them,” said Barrett.

According to ADPH, TB bacteria spreads through the air from one person to another, typically when the infected person coughs, sings,  sneezes, laughs or speaks. While curable, the ADPH says TB is a contagious disease.

Barrett said anyone who frequents the specific nightclubs should come to the Houston County Health Department Conference Center on Tuesday, Feb. 27, for free testing. The event runs from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the facility at 1781 East Cottonwood Road. The first 300 to come out to the event will be given a $20 Walmart gift card.

Statement from Blue Bar owner Andre Barber:

“On February 23, 2018, the Alabama Department of Health issued a press release concerning a TB outbreak that happened two years ago in Dothan which is purportedly linked to several "Downtown nightclubs," including Blue Bar. According to the Department, over the past two years "multiple" cases of pulmonary tuberculosis have been reported and a common denominator with the cases has been frequent nightclub activity.

The Department further states that "numerous attempts have been made to reach out to the affected clubs for assistance in combating this public health threat, with very little success."

Blue Bar cares about our customers' safety and has fully cooperated with the Health Department’s efforts.  Although this health concern originated two years ago, the Department did not contact Blue Bar until February 5, 2018. We met with the Department on that same day and distributed the Department's information cards to our customers over the following weekend. We also suggested to the Department that it take out Public Service Announcements on radio to more effectively inform the public about this issue.

We believe, however, that Dothan nightclubs are currently as safe as any other public place. TB is an airborne bacterium that can be spread anywhere there is an infected person - its reach is not limited to Downtown nightclubs.  During the past two years, thousands of people have frequented Dothan night clubs.  Those people have also frequented many other public places, such as schools, churches, restaurants, and retail stores and have necessarily come into contact with thousands of additional people. So if we have a TB problem in Dothan, it is a problem that we as a City must deal with. It is not caused by or limited to five night clubs.

Blue Bar supports the Department's efforts to better understand the breadth of this problem and encourages everyone concerned about possible exposure to take advantage of the Department's free testing event on February 27th.”

Statement from Chill Lounge owner Sakir Dogruogullari:

“On February 5, 2018 Chill Lounge was contacted by Houston County Health Department (HCHD) representative Susan Wiggins requesting a meeting to discuss the prevention of tuberculosis (TB) in the county. Representatives of Chill Lounge made themselves available that day and were informed by Ms. Wiggins that there had been many confirmed cases of TB in Houston County, and that eight had been linked to local nightclubs in the last two years.

Ms. Wiggins offered no proof as to how the HCHD linked the TB cases to nightclubs specifically, but she went on to say that the HCHD was looking at a variety of businesses in their efforts to promote free testing. Ms. Wiggins even told of a teacher at an unnamed school who had tested positive. We were given every assurance that ALL businesses that participated in the free testing would be kept confidential.

The ownership and employees of Chill Lounge take the spread of any illness very seriously and did our part to hand out the cards redeemable for a free TB test. For this reason, we found it quite disturbing that last week the HCHD released the names of several nightclubs, of which Chill Lounge was included, that the HCHD had determined were venues where people contracted TB.

The information released listed nightclubs as the only businesses where TB was contracted, which is untrue since the representative of the HCHD disclosed that a teacher from an unknown school had tested positive for TB. Also disturbing was that all of these businesses happen to be minority owned. 

Chill Lounge is open for business on Friday and Saturday. Out of a seven-day week, Chill Lounge is open for sixteen hours. Couldn’t these people have just as easily contracted TB at Walmart or McDonalds? What about a school or church? The list of possibilities is endless. TB is an airborne disease that needs to be taken seriously & can be contracted anywhere, not just nightclubs.

Also, TB test results take a couple days and are not immediate. The HCHD is offering gift cards to Walmart for people who may potentially have TB & would be at risk of spreading it further. Chill Lounge is as safe as any other business in the area.

Chill Lounge feels that it was misled by the HCHD and has been unfairly targeted in this matter. Chill Lounge has fully complied with the health department's request since the one and only meeting on February 5th, 2018 and intends to continue helping in this matter going forward.” 

Statement from The G-Spot spokesperson Monica Warren:

“The health department here in Dothan reached out to me 3 weeks ago about concerns that the club was mentioned as one of the places people tested had been in. As I read the article, it was saying that we were uncooperative, but that’s not true. They just reached out to me three weeks ago. I came in and I met with the officials. They gave me some cards to give to the people that come into the club.

I told them the club hadn’t been opening, but I would be happy to give the cards out next door at the convenience store that we run. That’s what I’ve been doing. We’ve been giving out the cards that they gave us to help with the situation. We also offered to help the health department in setting up a tent. I told them they could come out to the parking lot to set up a tent to do free TB testing for the community and they told me no. I don’t know how I’m not being cooperative because I’ve done what I’ve could.

I want to also reach out to the health department, if the club, G-Spot, was named in the situation that has happened with the TB, they are welcome to come out and quarantine The G-Spot. I’ll be willing to let them come in and quarantine The G-Spot and do whatever measure we need to do to make it’s right, To all of our patrons, we are sorry if it did happen at The G-Spot. But, we haven’t even been opening and we’d like to welcome the health department to come in and quarantine to make sure it doesn’t happen again - if it did happen at The G-spot.”

Statement from Club Escape attorney Terry Bullard:

 “On February 5th, Mrs. Avi Gratham met with Susan Wiggins with the Houston County Health Department. She was given cards to hand out at Club Escape from Ms. Wiggins. Ms. Gratham also requested pamphlets to distribute to customers. On her own, Ms. Gratham also posted posters in her building to inform customers to go get the TB test.

My client handed out the cards with TB test information to customers at the door of the club, although some customers did not take the cards. My client and her husband have undergone TB testing and their results came back negative. She knows of no customers or employees at Club Escape with TB.

All employees at the club will be tested Tuesday. I have demanded that the Alabama Department of Public Health give a full and fair retraction of the false and liable statements made about my client and Club Escape.”

In a follow-up interview, ADPH said they did speak with some owners after the press release was sent out and were informed that club owners were distributing cards, but some patrons were reluctant to get tested.

Copyright 2018 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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