In Texas, five babies have ended up testing positive for tuberculosis after a nursing assistant at an El Paso hospital ended up exposing over hundreds of infants to the disease from September of 2013 to August of this year. The El Paso Public Health Department released a press statement that read none of the children had active TB, which is a contagious and also deadly type of the illness. Each of the five infants will receive treatment.
The health department has stated it will be expanding the list of children who could have been exposed and the total might be all the way up to around 850 babies and specialists explained the number could still go even higher. Administrators at Providence Memorial Hospital admitted that they “should have done more” when the nursing aide’s symptoms were discovered during a yearly screening back in July. She ended up being tested for TB in August and it came back positive. She was immediately put on leave.
It is also believed that nearly 50 hospital workers were also exposed to the disease during that time period as well. All families of every person possibly exposed was mailed a certified letter and also is being contacted by telephone with specific instructions about how to get tested for tuberculosis.
One mother stated that she would not wish such events on anyone, after finding out her infant daughter, age 5 months ended up testing positive for TB. She added that she hoped everything ended up turning out well. Infants have a higher chance of developing severe tuberculosis, which is spread by sneezing and coughing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained that it can be sometimes challenging to identify the infection in babies due to the fact that they can become ill by a fairly low exposure to microorganisms.
The health department explained that it was also possible that because four of the children had already received vaccines against TB in the past, that could have resulted in them having false positives with their tuberculosis tests. It was noted that so far about 200 babies had undergone both skin tests and also had chest X-rays.
TB is a contagious disease that usually causes chest pain, coughing and difficulty breathing. It is believed that an estimated two billion people the world over have what is known as latent TB, where germs remain dormant and do not show any symptoms. However, when they do come out, tuberculosis microbes usually attack the lungs but also may go after the brain and kidneys. If TB is left untreated, it can become deadly. The microorganisms are classically transmitted from person to person by coughs and sneezes.
Patients who have TB must take antibiotics for at least six months. Some tuberculosis strains have started to become resistant to antibiotics, which has made them more hazardous. However, there is one vaccine for the illness which is called Bacille Calmette-Guerin or BCG, and it is not commonly used in the United States, stated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The drug is usually given to children in countries where tuberculosis is common.
There were around 9,590 recorded cases of TB in the United States in 2013. In October, health officials acknowledged 140 babies who might have been exposed to tuberculosis in a parallel incident that happened at a Nevada hospital. Testing of the babies in Texas is continuing due to the fact that five of them ended up coming up positive for tuberculosis.
By Kimberly Ruble