Two transit workers in Greenpoint have contracted tuberculosis in an outbreak that city health officials are working feverishly to contain.
Health officials confirmed that an outbreak of the airborne illness struck two supervisors who work at a transit facility on Quay Street this week. The positive tests prompted city health officials to begin on-site testing for the entire cohort working at the building who may have been exposed.
City health officials have not pinpointed how the individuals contracted the disease, a bacterial infection that spreads through the air but is treatable and curable.
According to a transit union representative, the workers who tested positive for tuberculosis are members of the division responsible for power washing and cleaning stations throughout North Brooklyn.
“Who the hell knows how they got it,” said Transit Workers Union spokesman Jim Gannon. “Consider what these guys do. They take trucks, go to stations and hose them down. They’re in constant contact with crap in those stations.”
The Health Department notes that brief contact with individuals who are sick with TB is not likely to cause infection. The illness, whose symptoms include loss of weight, fever, and a cough that brings up mucus, is spread through “close, daily and prolonged contact,” not through sharing food or having sex.
The outbreak at Quay Street still worries neighbors who don’t want to come down with consumption, the disease best known for killing millions throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and for prompting legislation banning spitting in public places.
“Holy crap, that’s kind of scary,” said Christine Onorati, who works at Word Bookstore.
Others aren’t as worried.
“They’re working, they’re not looking for beers,” said bartender Dave Pollack, who added that he doesn’t see many transit workers in his bar, the Diamond.
But Steve Rosenberg of Pop’s Popular Clothing counts several transit workers as customers and he hopes they get better quickly.
“I get those guys in here sometimes,” said Rosenberg. “I think I’m going to wear a mask to protect myself.”