A homeless man with a highly contagious case of tuberculosis spread the infection to 41 people at a bar where he spent most of his time.
Most were regular patrons at the neighborhood bar. Fourteen of them became sick with TB, including two who died. The outbreak accounted for one-third of the TB cases in Minneapolis in 1992.
Several similar clusters of tuberculosis have been reported in prisons, nursing homes and hospitals, but outbreaks centered on barrooms are rare.
Dr. Susan E. Kline and others from the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis tracked the outbreak and reported the results in today’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Doctors tracked the Minneapolis outbreak to a 48-year-old homeless alcoholic who was also mentally ill. He spent his days in the bar and his nights under a bridge or in shelters.
By the time he sought medical treatment, he was so sick he could not walk and had lost 68 pounds.
Doctors interviewed 97 regular customers and bartenders at the bar and found that 42 percent were infected. They passed the bacteria to at least two other people, one of them an infant.
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