Tuberculosis Exposure Leads to Testing for 700 Texas Infants

More than 700 newborn infants at an El Paso hospital may have been exposed to tuberculosis over the past year by a healthcare worker who was recently diagnosed with the illness. 

On September 23, The City of El Paso Department of Public Health issued a warning (PDF) that indicates hundreds of children born at Providence Memorial Hospital between September 1, 2013 to August 16, 2014 may have had close contact with a healthcare worker who has since been diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB), posing a possible risk of illness to infants.

The El Paso Department of Health stated the female nurse was put on leave immediately after testing positive for TB.

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Families of infants potentially exposed to tuberculosis are being notified by the El Paso Department of Health, instructing parents to call and schedule free TB testing at the Department of Health clinic.

Testing is critical to prevent the illness from either spreading or becoming worse. The El Paso Department of Health has published a listing of exposure dates and times (PDF) on its website.

Tuberculosis Health Risks

Tuberculosis infection is commonly spread through coughs or sneezes of an infected individual and may lay dormant for years before becoming active.

Commonly referred to as TB, the infection often attacks the lungs, the central nervous system, circulatory system, bones, joints, and the skin.

Most infections diagnosed in humans are asymptomatic, latent infections, with about one in ten cases eventually progressing to active disease. Although that rate is low, if left untreated the active version of the disease can be fatal, with about a 50% fatality rate for its victims.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, newborns exposed to tuberculosis should be tested immediately since they are at a greater than average risk to progress quickly to TB disease. In some cases the CDC warns that infants can even show an accelerated progress toward more severe forms of TB such as TB meningitis.

Parents who have had newborn within the affected date range should immediately have their children tested. If a parent believes they had their child in the affected date range but have not received any notification they may contact the Department of Public Health by dialing 2-1-1 or 1-877-541-7905 from Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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