Emory University Hospital Tuberculosis Warning Issued for 680 Patients

Emory University Hospital in Atlanta is warning about 680 patients treated between November 2010 and April 2011 that they may have been exposed to tuberculosis (TB), a potentially life-threatening infectious disease that can be spread through the air when someone with an active infection coughs or sneezes. 

Those exposed to tuberculosis at Emory University Hospital have been told that they should be tested for the disease after potentially coming into contact with a hospital employee who was diagnosed with tuberculosis in April. About 100 employees are also being tested for tuberculosis after the exposure.

The employee was reportedly unaware he was carrying the disease and may have inadvertently exposed people at the hospital from February 7, 2011 to April 17, 2011. However, as a precaution the hospital and the Georgia Department of Community Health are extending the risk of exposure window by three months, to include people who came into contact with the employee as far back as November 7, 2010.

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According to an open letter to all patients and visitors issued by Emory Hospital’s Chief Quality Officer, Dr. William Bornstein, all 680 patients and approximately 100 employees have been contacted and provided screening instructions. Follow-up exams will be provided free through their local county health departments.

The letter states that the unidentified employee, and all Emory University Hospital employees, are screened for tuberculosis during the hiring process and have to be screened each year they are employed there. Bornstein states that those procedures were followed with the employee.

Anyone who suspects that they may have been exposed have been urged to remain calm, contact their doctor or local health department and get tested. Bornstein also said in his letter that people exposed to the TB bacteria do not spread the bacteria right away, as they have to develop an active infection first, which usually takes months to years.

The strain of tuberculosis identified at Emory University Hospital is a common strain, which responds well to all standard treatments, according to Bornstein.

Tuberculosis, also known as tubercle bacillus or TB, is a serious infection that commonly attacks the lungs (pulmonary TB), the central nervous system, circulatory system, bones, joints or the skin. Most infections in humans are asymptomatic, latent infections, with about one in ten cases eventually progressing to active disease. If left untreated, tuberculosis results in death for about half of its victims.

Symptoms of tuberculosis could include:

  • Chest Pain
  • Coughing Blood
  • Fever, Chills or Night Sweats
  • Appetite Loss or Weight Loss
  • Fatique


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