Tuberculosis outbreak linked to California Bay Area poker room

California Grand Casino
Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: November 02, 2023 08:08 PDT

Contra Costa Health, the official health agency for California's Contra Costa County, on Thursday issued a recommendation to the public to be tested for tuberculosis (TB) if they have visited Pacheco, California's California Grand Casino cardroom at any point in the past five years.

The recommendation comes after Contra Costa Health's medical researchers linked 11 tuberculosis cases in California's Bay Area to employees or customers of the cardroom, which sits 25 miles or so to the northeast of downtown Oakland.

Ten of the 11 known cases that have the California Grand Casino connection are genetically linked, and the 11th case has yet to be tested.

“We are making this recommendation now because there is new evidence that TB may have spread among people who spent time at the casino from 2018 to 2023,” said Dr. Meera Sreenivasan, the deputy health officer for Contra Costa County. “TB can live inside someone for years without showing signs of its presence. That is why it’s important to take a test, even if you do not feel sick. TB can cause serious illness, but it is treatable and curable with medicine, especially when caught early.”

Dormancy, drug resistance among complicating tuberculosis factors

The long-period dormancy often associated with tuberculosis was demonstrated by the earliest of the known infections linked to the card casino being tracked back to 2018. People can become infected and not know it for months or years, only to have the dormant virus erupt into an active and contagious infection much later. Decades ago, the United States widely vaccinated childen against the disease, but that was changed in 2005 to a more targeted approach aimed at higher-risk demographics.

Tuberculosis, as with other viruses, mutates over time and creates innumerable strains. Some of those strains have become drug-resistant as well, complicating the treatment and control of active cases. Symptoms of active TB cases can include a persistent or bloody cough, fever, weight loss, night sweats and fatigue.

To date, Contra Costa Health officials have contacted over 300 current and former employees and customers of the California Grand Casino cardroom, which dates back to 1860 and is believed to be the oldest continuing-operating poker room in the United States. The agency has not, however, identified a current or ongoing source for TB transmission. The health agency also urges anyone who may fall within the test recommendation's scope to contact its TB Client Services Program at 925-313-6740.

Featured image source: Facebook/California Grand Casino