The Southwest Utah Public Health Department (SWUPHD) and National Park Service (NPS) Office of Public Health are conducting a joint investigation of a lab-confirmed case of tuberculosis (TB) at Zion National Park.

Zion National Park Public domain image/Nikater
Zion National Park
Public domain image/Nikater

On March 13, 2015, a concessions employee at Zion National Park was diagnosed with active TB disease. TB can spread through the air from one person to another (e.g. through coughing), but in general, is not easily transmitted. Individuals most at risk include those with close and prolonged contact with the patient, such as roommates, partners, and coworkers. A small number of close contacts of the employee have been identified and will be tested for TB.

“The risk of TB transmission from this employee to visitors is extremely low,” stated Dr. David Wong, Chief of the Epidemiology Branch of the Office of Public Health for the NPS. The employee works in a position that requires no contact with visitors and works in a building accessible only to employees. The employee is currently being treated for TB at a medical facility. “SWUPHD and NPS believe there is no risk to the public and encourage visits as usual to Zion National Park,” Dr. Wong emphasized.

TB is a serious disease that usually affects the lungs, but can affect other parts of the body, such as the brain, kidneys, and spine. Symptoms of TB include cough, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. If untreated, the disease can be fatal. If you think you have been exposed to someone with TB, contact your health care provider or local health department about testing.

Besides active TB disease, a latent form of TB can occur where an individual does not have symptoms and cannot spread the disease to others. Both active and latent forms of TB are treatable with at least 3 months of antibiotics.

Worldwide, TB is one of the most common infectious diseases with an estimated 9 million annual cases. In 2013, 9,582 cases of TB were reported in the U.S., including 33 in Utah. A total of 6 TB cases were reported to SWUPHD from 2009–2013.