Nightclubs react to unresponsiveness claims in TB probe

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)

DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) - 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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