Roaming Manhattan court worker tests positive for tuberculosis

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A roaming Manhattan Supreme Court worker has become sick with rare tuberculosis — prompting officials to warn judges, clerks and other colleagues in contact with him over the past few months to get tested.

“We don’t know how contagious this is — we have no idea,’’ a concerned court source told The Post on Tuesday.

The infected employee works in administration — traveling among all four downtown civil court buildings, the source said.  

Court officials were alerted to the man’s condition late Sunday afternoon and contacted the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to begin conducting such things as contact tracing, said Lucian Chalfen, spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration, to The Post.

“There are no other positive cases. No other reports of positive cases. This is, to our understanding, a singular event,’’ Chalfen said.

“Tuberculosis is an old disease … so they are set up for something like that,’’ he said of city health officials. “We notified everyone yesterday morning — that would be in the affected buildings — and we alerted people as to who the individual is.

“In my time here, this is the first time that this has come up,’’ added the rep, who has been with the courts for five years.

TB is typically a lung disease caused by bacteria that can spread through the air when an infected person speaks or coughs.

The court source noted that fortunately, everyone is still required to wear face masks in the court system because of COVID-19, regardless of whether they are vaccinated for the coronavirus.

“We get anybody and everybody coming in, but we are totally masked up. We are all vaccinated here,’’ the source said.

Still, an official with the court reporters’ union said in an email to judicial authorities, “I kindly urge immediate on-site testing.

“I have just been informed that at least two senior court reporters came into very close contact with [the infected worker] very recently. The possibility of spread has now been drastically increased,” the union big said.

When TB was first identified in 1882, it was killing one out of seven people in the US and Europe, the CDC said.

But since then, thanks to antibiotics, better knowledge about how it spreads and a vaccine, the disease is now typically rare in developed countries such as the US, where there were 8,916 reported cases in 2019, the most recent year with available statistics, according to the agency.  

Of that number, 754 of the cases were in New York state — with most of them, 566, in the Big Apple, according to the state Health Department.  The previous year, there were a couple fewer cases in the city, but recent levels are nothing compared to the 1960s, when New York City peaked with 4,891 cases in 1963.

Some people unknowingly carry around TB bacteria without exhibiting symptoms, but an active infection makes a person sick and can be fatal if left untreated, the CDC said.

Symptoms of TB include a bad cough lasting three weeks or longer, pain in the chest, coughing up blood or sputum, weakness or fatigue and fever, according to the CDC.

Manhattan court officials fired off several emails to workers Monday morning warning them of the situation and urging testing.

“We have been informed by a court aide … who is assigned to the administrative office on the 7th floor that he was diagnosed with active tuberculosis,’’ reads the missive from New York Supreme Court Civil Term Chief Clerk Denis Reo.

“He has given us consent to release his name only for the purpose of notifying judges and non-judicial staff with whom he has been in contact,’’ Reo said.  

“Please keep him in your thoughts. Thankfully he is expected to make a full recovery.

“If you have been in contact with him over the last several months you should get tested for tuberculosis,’’ the official said. “Employees and judges can get excused leave to get tested by their own doctor. Testing requires two visits — one for the administration of the test, a second visit for the reading of the test.

“We are in the process of working with OCA to reach out to our TB test provider to coordinate on-site testing,’’ Reo said. “If we can coordinate this, as we receive additional information we will forward immediately.”

Asked about possible on-site testing by The Post, Chalfen responded in an email, “We have advised any Judge or non-judicial employee that they can contact a testing facility that our HR/Work Safe Department has under contract and they will give them a TB test.

“Additionally, they can contact their own personal physician. At this point only a handful of people have indicated that they were interested in testing.”

Still, the court source said, “We are not coughing … but if there is on-site testing, we absolutely do want to get testing.

“I have [seen the infected worker], but honestly it’s been in passing. ‘Hi, how are you doing?’ I haven’t had close personal contact with him,’’ the source said. “He was just passing along in the hallways.

“They did say they would be giving excused leave, so they aren’t charging your time’’ to get tested, the source said of court officials.

“But it would be a lot easier if there was on-site testing to allay everybody’s fears who are here and to make it easier for everybody to get tested.

“Here, we are calm because we are used to dealing with the public — we wear our masks all the time when we are with the public, and that’s what we have to urge other people to keep on doing.”

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