David Dowdy, an assistant professor in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's epidemiology department, provided a similar assessment.
"There are nurses who work in TB hospital wards in other countries that are not particularly well ventilated, and they can work with these patients every day for a year and not contract TB," he said, "so the overall risk for one case creating a large number of secondary cases is much smaller than the diseases we think about as being respiratory diseases such as the cold or the flu."
After being quarantined and starting treatment, Stratton returned to work at Hooters, where she said managers expressed frustration with her inability to work at a normal pace and co-workers said they noticed she had lost significant weight and couldn't eat.
Stratton, who lives with her girlfriend, Mari McCoy, and McCoy's family, said she was told by managers at the restaurant that her illness was "not serious" and that she shouldn't tell her family, which she considers McCoy's family to be, or friends about it or how she contracted it.
"Obviously, the fact that I have tuberculosis is something my family, who I live with, would need to know," she said, noting her arm swelled and oozed pus after she was given a shot there to test for the disease.
Initially, insurance attorneys for the Hooters company, which is based in Atlanta, challenged Stratton's claim — which Block filed with the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission in December — and a hearing was scheduled for June 6. But the challenge was dropped last month and the agency granted approval of the claim, according to commission records.
Stratton will be compensated for all her medical costs, for two-thirds of her lost wages during her illness — which compensation commission records put at $545 per week missed — and for "any permanent impairment" associated with her contracting the disease, Block said. Henninger confirmed that account.
"It's a lifetime benefit for medical coverage," Block said.
In substantiating Stratton's claim, Block said he confirmed that multiple other Hooters employees had contracted nonactive tuberculosis — which means tuberculosis bacteria is present in a person's body but there is no active illness — and that he was "pretty astonished and shocked" that the restaurant was never closed.
"To hear that the Health Department hadn't shut down the facility, that nobody knew, that the public wasn't aware?" Block said. "My client was a waitress, so she certainly was exposed to a lot of people."
Rodriguez said because of the epidemiology of tuberculosis and what is known about how it spreads — only among close contacts with prolonged exposure to the infected person, and only through airborne droplets and not via surfaces like plates, glasses or toilet seats — warning the public or closing the restaurant would have been "completely unwarranted."
The Health Department also found that the Hooters manager who had the confirmed case of tuberculosis was "not very infectious," Rodriguez said.
Stratton said she'll finally be finished with her medications in August and is looking forward to moving on with her life. She wants to go to school for cosmetology, she said.
"I'm not waiting any more tables for a very, very long time," she said.