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Possible Tuberculosis Exposure for Hundreds of Texas Babies
- Updated: September 22, 2014
Texas health officials released a statement acknowledging that 706 newborn babies, as well as 43 employees at the Providence Memorial Hospital in El Paso, Texas could have been exposed to a single worker with active tuberculosis (TB).
According to the report, the infected employee worked in the hospital’s nursery for months before receiving a firm diagnosis of tuberculosis. As a result, this individual had direct interaction with newborn patients and other employees without even realizing a risk existed. The person with TB was a hospital employee from September 2013 through August 2014.
Tuberculosis is contagious and a potentially deadly disease and because of this, the health department and hospital officials are trying to get in touch with all families at risk. Once contacted, free screening, as well as follow-up care is being offered at no cost. Although treatable, tuberculosis is still considered quite serious.
Contracting this airborne disease from an infected person is not necessarily easy but in a letter sent to the parents of the at-risk babies, the health department said they want to take extra precaution and ensure that all children are properly examined.
TB typically affects the lungs and if not treated, it can be fatal. One of the biggest challenges is that tuberculosis can stay dormant in the body for months, sometimes years before symptoms appear. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reminds people that TB is an airborne disease. As such, it spreads from an active person through sneezing, coughing, or even being close while talking.
The problem specific to newborn babies is that they do not yet have a strong immune system capable of fighting off serious illnesses. Therefore, they are far more vulnerable to being infected than adults are although adults can also contract TB, especially those with compromised immune systems.
The El Paso Department of Public Health released a press release in anticipation of notifying the public, especially those exposed to TB, about this existing risk.