FIRST ON 3: Carolina Beach McDonald's workers say coworker has TB
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CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WWAY) -- The McDonald's on Pleasure Island is a very popular spot for locals and tourists alike. The bad news is employees at this location could be sick.

WWAY has learned a foreign exchange student working at the restaurant may have tuberculosis. Now all employees there are being checked for the disease.

This McDonald's is a common eat spot for locals and tourists coming in and out of Carolina Beach. According to multiple employees at this location there is more than food preparation going on in the back of the restaurant.

One employee told us that another worker here tested positive for tuberculosis-like symptoms, and that managers took employees in the back and threatened them if they talked about it.

When we went to find out more we got kicked off the property. One worker told us they could not confirm the details, but the issue was confirmed by another McDonald's employee.

We also saw other employees piling into this taxi, which sources tell us was heading to the health department, where the workers were tested for TB.

A New Hanover County Health Department representative would not confirm or deny the issue, but did say that tuberculosis could not be passed through the handling of food meaning that it is not a public risk at this time.

"There is no risk in food handling with tuberculosis, because it's spread strictly respiratory to respiratory," New Hanover County Personal Health Services Manager Janet Smithy said. "You would have to inhale the germ not eat something that had the germ on it, so it's not like a gastrointestinal bug."

The local McDonald's ownership group is McAnderson Inc. A company representative released this statement to us: "We're working with the New Hanover Health Department on a situation surrounding an individual at that location."

The company then directed us to the Health Department with any other questions.

"A person that is suspected to have TB, no matter where they live or where they work, what we do is go ahead and start an investigation," Smithy said. "It is required that we do that because TB symptoms can also turn out to be something else."

The Health Department said it could take a couple of weeks to get tests results.

Smithy also said you can carry tuberculosis and not be contagious. That's why the Health Department says at this point there is no public risk.

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The TB bacteria is indeed airborn, and can't be transmitted through food - but can be transmitted through the food-HANDLERS and anyone who comes into contact with them via their cough, sneeze, or any mucus droplet.

Although no guarantee, if this 'exchange student' (or any other immigrant worker) had been properly screened, TB should have been detected if infected upon entry to this country. All LEGAL immigrants to the U.S. are required by law to have a chest X-ray and be up-to-date on immunizations to prevent this from happening. ONE of many reasons immigration laws are in place to protect U.S. citizens and legal residents.

No one said the girl in question was an immigrant, legal or illegal. They said she was an exchange student, not immigrant. She is most likely here on a J-1 work/study Visa. There is no requirements for screenings for that program. If you go to most any "resort" town during the summer months, there are usually many of these students employed at the tourist attractions.

Ok so Tb cannot be transmitted through food but the bacteria can survive in the air for two hours. Which if you ask me is worse. All that employee had to do was breathe on someone and they can breathe it in and then they breathe on someone and they can get it. So I would say that I would be concerned if I worked there and if I knew someone that worked there not the customers.
As for the Manager, he did not handle this properly threatening is not professional. I am sure there is better protocal for these things then threathening teenagers. If they did not want the employees to talk then they should have just put the story out there. Regardless of whether or not there was a public health scare or not MCD's should have reported it as good faith to the community. If they are willing to go this far for what everyone is saying is harmless then what else are they willing to cover up to save face. I am happy that someone reported this to the news. Someone out there is doing the job for MCD's and the public health dept. If there was nothing to hide then why threaten and try to cover up the story.

Covering up is the perception, but employers are required under HIPAA laws to protect the identities of their employees in the case of medical information like this. And with everything being said about foreign exchange students, if anyone felt it ok to talk about anyone because of their nationality, then employees should know that discrimination is not acceptable on any case for any reason. "Threatening" repercussions is completely within laws of protecting all workers from discrimination.

This story is three weeks old, Worker was a Chinese exchange worker and was sent back when found she had full blown TB. She had it when on flight over here. This has been covered up for a couple of weeks now.No telling how bad it really could be!

thats a lie...

This McDonalds has been missing out on a fortune of customers after 11 pm just by not having a walk-up service window. Everyone wandering around at the local bars on foot is looking for food after 11. They cannot be served at the drive up window. I see at least 20 or more turned away an hour begging to buy food at the drive-in window!

Read this article, "Illegal Immigrants Are Spreading Dangerous Diseases Across This Nation"
By Dave Gibson (05/12/05)

Read "Foreign born TB cases need better control, US says"
By LINDSEY TANNER – 07-28-08

Read "Change In Guidelines Could Help Eliminate TB In U.S."
Main Category: Respiratory / Asthma News
Article Date: 02 Jan 2007 - 6:00 PST

Read, "Treatment Outcomes Highlight Dangers Of Extensively Drug-resistant Tuberculosis"
ScienceDaily (Aug. 7, 2008)

The manager had every right to threaten employees with the loss of job.

It would be illegal and unethical for employees to a) talk about a status (employee matter) with anyone
and
b) under multiple privacy acts it would be illegal to disclose any healthcare information about an employee...

The only thing anyone has done by trying to press this issue is open up a can of worms for a potential employee rights lawsuit.

By disclosing the fact that it was a foreign exchange student, that pretty much limits it down to exactly who it was, thus you could have gone ahead and given out the name.. Same difference..

On the flip side... It sounds like some eomployees felt it necessary to warn the public about TB (uhmmm not so much) in their food...

This underlines the desperate need for those mcdonalds employees who dropped out of school to go back and complete their education.. As the news and NHC health dept said... TB aint (cough cough) done is contageniounes.

Im sorry but I work there and have been tested and it has came up negitive,very very negitive! And may i say i was one of the few to be in close contact with the excange student. You need to watch your mouth when talking about us as drop outs! I "droped out" two months after I turned 16. I have my high school deplomia from cape fear adult high school a year earlyer than any one my age, I will be going to college this fall and I will be a nures by the time im 21. I bet you i will be making more money than you by the time im compleatly done with my schooling, and I started off as a "drop out" working at McDonalds. Stop being dissrespectful to the workers there, I work at McDonalds at carolina beach because i have a car I have to pay for, and i pay for my braces, not b/c i droped out and im going to work there the rest of my life. You dont know any of the workers storys to call us drop outs. You are an idiot for calling us somthing so dissrespectful and not knowing anything about our life storys.

We have discovered that 24% of Illegal Hispanics carry Drug Resistant TB. There are no required tests for employment in SC, and most likely not NC either. We are working with our LEgislators in SC to get mandatory testing for food and service workers. COME ON PEOPLE, get SMART, DEMAND that YOUR Legislators PROTECT YOU

North Carolina has: NO Food Handler Health Certificate Requirement for any employee. BUT --- Its against State law to cook a hamburger RARE -- yet the waiter, cook or food handler can aparently carry TB , AIDS, Syphillis, ect.& serve you a hamburger. Contyact Dr. Jeffrey Engle (Dir.) in Raleigh at the State Health Dept. and listen to his excuse.

...we wouldn't need any other laws. Secure the border, manage the number of work visas we issue (require a PPD test if you want to), and everything in our society would improve across the board.

You mean you want government to step in??? All I've been hearing lately is get "government out of our way", sorry but you can't have it both ways!!!

Management is certainly within their rights to demand that employees not discuss this outside the company, but in no way, shape or form is it ILLEGAL for employees to talk about it anyway, should they choose to risk termination.

As they are not managers they cannot represent the company and thus violate no employee-employer privacy.

They are also not "covered entities" under HIPAA, and thus free to repeat any fact (or rumor) they want to.

looks like a little further education might be in order to improve your spelling.....

The company should be forthright with the public.....it should have closed the restaurant for a day or two, gotten everyone tested, and then reopened with a clean slate....nothing to hide. The way they did it makes it look like they were trying to deceive everyone, be sneaky and continue operating despite the risk.

The manager is in all rights and you talk about closing down for a couple of days, in this economy, what about the employees families who depend on the work? They are doing it the correct way and i don't blame McDonalds for trying to keep in on the down low, but it is a small island and once one person knows everyone knows. I just don't believe the news should have gotten envolved. Their is more important news to talk about.

I don't see how any reasonable person could feel a couple days work is more important than the health of a community. You certainly have your priorities mixed up.

Heard bits and pieces, but that employee discrimination would not be tolerated. Sounds like the story has been twisted somewhere along the way.

If you read the statement from the Health Department, there is no risk in transmitting TB by food. If the Health Department is investigating and did not require them to close, then there was no risk.

What about the people working with this person?? What about the customers inside breathing the same air??
They would have been better off to shut down for a few days. Yes it might be tough on the families due to lack of income, BUT it's CHEAPER THAN A TRIP TO THE ER OR TB TESTING AND TREATMENT!! It also would have done some GOOD for their IMAGE as well. I'd much rather eat somewhere that had closed down to protect peoples health than I would eat somewhere that tried to cover it up and put people's (including children) health and lives at risk. I bet they will loose more business because they DID NOT close down vs what they would have lost by closing.

It is the County Health Department that is in charge of public health and safety, not the McDonalds at Carolina Beach. Since the RUMOR, because nothing at all is confirmed, is that it was one (and only one) person who was SUSPECTED to have the live TB disease happens to have worked there, does not mean the restaurant should have closed. If our County Health Department, who have been trained to handle situations like this, deemed this incident to not be a public risk. If your FEAR of the unknown is the reason why they should have closed, then every doctor's office or Urgent Care who initially treats a suspected case of TB would also need to close each time that happens. How do you know that the patient that was in the room before isn't infected with TB. Should the Health Department have to close every time they see a TB patient under their care? Leave the decisions for public health to the experts.