Texas hospital worker may have exposed 700+ babies to TB

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TEXAS — Over 700 babies and 40 hospital workers have been exposed to tuberculosis or TB, according to health officials.

One of the employees who worked at the nursery and post-partum units of Providence Memorial Hospital in El Paso, Texas reportedly came to work with a case of TB from September 2013 to August 2014.

The hospital sent certified letters to the families of each patient within the said period, instructing them to get tested for TB. The health department assured the patients that they will not charge for any follow-up care.

In a statement, the owner of the hospital, Sierra Providence Health Network, said the health worker with TB is no longer with them and is currently receiving treatment.

El Paso’s Department of Public Health said in a statement, “Once in the body, the bacteria usually lay dormant for months or years before they begin to grow and cause a case of active TB. That is why it is so important to identify people who may have been exposed, screen them, and provide treatment.”

TB Bacteria is airborne, but it’s not a highly contagious disease, according to Mayo Clinic. Close contact over a long period of time could up the risk of transfer to another person.

The Center for Medicare Services is giving the hospital until October 11 to document policy changes to prevent the same incident from happening again. If the hospital will not be able to comply, its Medicare funding will be terminated.

The Texas Department of State Health Services is currently conducting an investigation and they found ‘serious definiciencies in the areas of infection control,’ according to Carrie Williams, department director of media relations.

Williams added, “This is one of the largest TB exposure investigations we’ve ever been involved in, and it involves infants, so it is particularly sensitive. Babies are more likely than older children and adults to develop life-threatening forms of TB.”