Hospital Worker May Have Exposed 700 Babies to Tuberculosis

A Texas woman working at a hospital nursery who didn't realize she had tuberculosis may have reportedly exposed 706 babies and 43 coworkers to the serious and sometimes-deadly, but treatable disease. 

A health case worker at Providence Memorial Hospital in El Paso was recently diagnosed with having an active case of TB, but health officials can't say with certainty whether she passed on the germ to babies born there between Sept. 1, 2013 and Aug. 16, 2014. This week, moms and dads who left Providence Memorial elated that they were going home with their new bundles of joy received the kind of letter in the mail that would be every parent's worst nightmare.

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In the letter, which explained why the hospital was concerned, parents were told: "TB is a serious but treatable disease that is spread through the air. Although TB is not easy to catch from another person, we want to be extra sure that your child is examined."

TB is an airborne disease that affects the lungs and can actually create a hole in the lungs. It can lay dormant for months and even years, but is simple to spread -- someone can get it just by being around a person with TB who coughs, sneezes or even speaks. Symptoms of the disease include a bad cough that persists for three weeks or longer, chest pain, weight loss, coughing up blood, chills, fever, and night sweats.

Since their immune systems aren't developed yet, babies are vulnerable to TB.

The good news, so far, is that none of the hospital workers who were screened for TB tested positive.

The disease is treatable as long as patients begin a course of antibiotics when it's detected. Let's hope all of the parents who received letters take this notice seriously and that their babies test negative.

Do you ever worry about your child being exposed to untreated or undiagnosed diseases while at a doctor's office or hospital?

 

Image via Daniel Lobo/Flickr

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