Tuberculosis cases have been reported at Summerlin Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada. Only two cases were active, with patients being contagious. One was a family member of a woman who had gone into premature labor and was sick with the illness during her twins’ birth in May and after their delivery. Summerlin Hospital did not diagnose her illness, and even allowed Vanessa White to visit her babies in the neonatal unit where they were receiving care. According to witnesses, White was coughing and appeared sick at the time. White died in July from tuberculosis.
One of White’s babies died in June of premature birth and the other baby died in August from tuberculosis.
The other recent case of tuberculosis was found in a hospital employee, who is receiving treatment and is expected to survive the bacterial infection. Besides these two active cases, 57 inactive cases were found and need to be further tested to prevent active infections.
Tuberculosis has a long history in the human race, dating back to 4,000 B.C., according to the results of studies of bones. It was not known by the name tuberculosis until 1839, previously being called consumption. Over time, scientists and doctors have used artificial pneumothorax, or decreasing the volume of the lungs, which worked for a time, but did not have lasting benefits for the patient; radiation of the lungs and chemotherapy, both treatments not being able to cure the disease.
In 1943, Selman Waksman was successful in introducing streptomycin antibiotic to kill bacteria known as Mycobacterium Tuberculosis. It was first administered to a human in 1944. The streptomycin stopped the progression of the disease and for the first time, recovery was possible.
Once the antibiotic was facing new strains, doctors found that a combination of antibiotics was necessary to fight tuberculosis. In Nevada, the cases found were possibly attributable to White’s admission to Summerlin Hospital and not being diagnosed at the time with tuberculosis, and then the hospital allowing her to come back into the ward when she was ill. There is no hard evidence that White’s case resulted in these recent cases, except that her baby died from tuberculosis as well.
The World Health Organization, WHO, reports that tuberculosis is still a big problem in many countries. They predict that out of eight million who test positively for active tuberculosis, two million will die of the disease. There has been a slow decline of cases in the US, however, that decline seems to be slowing down each year.
It has become US hospital protocol to test for TB and to treat all employees who show positive results. Some hospitals require testing every year in order to stay employed. Even influenza shots may be mandatory for hospital employees. These employees include non-medical staff, such as those who work in food service, environmental services and human resources. If an employee can prove to have a religious exception to being immunized for flu, they most likely must wear masks everyday.
The outbreak of tuberculosis in Summerlin Hospital in Nevada proves that vigilance of hospital staff is necessary to prevent diseases like tuberculosis from spreading and becoming active and contagious.
By Lisa M Pickering
13 Action News