Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and city officials said they are aware of, but not greatly concerned about, the discovery that a Japanese employee at a base eatery had contracted active tuberculosis.

Base officials learned Sept. 18 that a 36-year-old woman who worked at the Eagle’s Nest in Club Iwakuni from July 18 to Sept. 1 was diagnosed with active TB on Sept. 1. Japanese health officials confirmed the case to base medical staff on Sept. 19, according to a base statement.

After the discovery, which the statement described as “not a medical emergency,” 38 of the woman’s co-workers were tested for TB exposure. None has contracted active TB, but 12, including two military dependents, tested positive for a skin exposure test.

Those 12 since have had chest X-rays that returned clear, and they will be re-examined by base health officials before returning to work, base officials said.

“Everybody’s got clear chest X-rays, so there’s no threat anymore but we thought we should notify the public,” said Iwakuni spokewoman Master Sgt. Lesli Coakley.

The infected woman was a part-time contract employee of the club and is recuperating in Hiroshima Hospital, according to base and city officials.

Japanese health experts say TB isn’t uncommon in Japan.

There have been 33 cases in the city of Iwakuni this year, said Iwakuni Health and Welfare Center spokesman Tatsuhiko Sadamoto.

“We will consult with base officials and continue to examine the patient and concerned parties,” he said.

Neither the center nor the city has received any complaints or concerns as a result of the alert, he said.

“The commanding officer felt a responsibility to inform the community because we have so many visitors who eat (at Club Iwakuni),” Coakley said.

Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this story.

Tuberculosis Q&A

What is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis, or TB, is a disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which usually attacks the lungs but can also attack other body parts, including kidneys, spine and brain. If not treated properly, TB can be fatal. It once was the leading cause of death in the United States.

How is it spread?

TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The bacteria are put into the air when a person with active TB in the lungs or throat coughs or sneezes. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.

However, not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. People who are not sick have what is called latent TB infection and do not feel sick, do not have any symptoms and cannot spread TB to others. But some people with latent TB infection go on to get active TB.

Is there a cure?

People with active TB can be treated and cured if they seek medical help. People with latent TB infection can take medicine so that they will not develop active TB.

How serious is it?

TB cases are at a record low in the United States. In 2004, the most recent figures published, 14,517 people in the U.S. were reported to have TB. Worldwide, however, TB is one of the world’s deadliest diseases. One third of the world’s population is infected with TB, and each year, nearly 9 million people become sick with TB and more than 2 million die.

Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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