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updated: 8/21/2012 8:11 AM

Aurora library taking precautions against TB spreading

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Aurora Public Library employees are taking precautions this week after two regular patrons of the Main Library, 1 E. Benton St., tested positive for tuberculosis.

Officials from the Kane County Health Department visited the library Monday and performed voluntary tests on many of the library's 167 employees. The Main Library has 75 employees, but library spokeswoman Amy Roth said the testing was open to all employees.

Christopher Hoff, assistant director at the Kane County Health Department, said the department recently became aware of two new cases of active tuberculosis that are linked to the county's ongoing outbreak. To date, Hoff said, 42 cases have been confirmed in the Aurora area over the past three years and a majority have been linked to Hesed House, an overnight homeless shelter in Aurora.

"During our investigation of these two new cases we learned both people had been frequent visitors to and spent a lot of time at the library, especially during the hottest days in July," Hoff said. "Because it's been so hot and people have spent so much time indoors, our recommendation was that all library staff be tested."

Hoff insisted that the risk of any staff member being infected was minimal and the risk is almost nonexistent for patrons.

Tuberculosis is a contagious bacterial infection mainly affecting the lungs and it is spread through the air in little particles.

"To be at risk you would have had to be in proximity to the infected person for a long period of time as they coughed, sang or talked while expelling the bacteria from their lungs," Hoff said. "So the risk to patrons by touching books or using a computer is minimal and we are not recommending they be tested."

Roth said tests also will be available Wednesday for staff members unable to get to the library on Monday. Health department officials will be on hand Wednesday to collect results of the skin tests because results are not available until 48 to 72 hours after the test.

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