El Paso Tuberculosis Exposure Testing Finds 5 Infected Infants

At least five infants have tested positive for tuberculosis infection, after it was discovered that hundreds of newborns born at an El Paso, Texas hospital may have been exposed to the disease due to an infected staff member. 

In an update (PDF) released on September 27, the El Paso Department of Public Health provided an update on the early test results for children born at Providence Memorial Hospital, and also expanded the number of people who may have been exposed to an employee with tuberculosis who worked in the postpartum and newborn nursery between September 2013 and August 2014.

The agency indicates that five positive tuberculosis test results have been identified among infants born at the hospital, and the original estimate that 749 people may have been exposed to tuberculosis at the El Paso hospital has been expanded to 858 patients and employees.

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The El Paso Department of Public Health and hospital officials are continuing to contact the affected families and narrow down all possibly exposed patients to schedule free tuberculosis screenings and follow-up care free of charge.

Tuberculosis Testing Continues

The five children that have tested positive for tuberculosis infection are not considered to have the active disease, and further testing is required to determine their actual condition, because four of the five children received the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine that may generate false positive results.

Patients admitted or attended at the Providence Memorial Hospital who may have been exposed to the tuberculosis infection are being contacted and should schedule screenings immediately. 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.

The tuberculosis infection is commonly spread through coughs or sneezes of an infected individual and may lay dormant for years before becoming active. The infection often attacks the lungs, the central nervous system, circulatory system, bones, joints, and the skin. In severe cases, the infection can be fatal.

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.


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