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Deadly Tuberculosis Outbreak Linked to Las Vegas NICU Ward

The deaths of a Nevada woman and her twin baby girls has led to the investigation into a tuberculosis outbreak that may be linked to one Las Vegas hospital. 

State health officials say they are trying to contact the parents of about 140 babies who spent time in the Summerlin Hospital Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) this summer, indicating that they should get tested for tuberculosis.

Investigators with the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) are setting up temporary testing sites for the former patients, according to press release issued to announce the investigation on October 7.

The mother died in July at a California hospital, shortly after having given birth to twin girls at Summerlin in May. One of the daughters died on June 1, before her mother’s death. The second baby girl died in early August. All three had tuberculosis.

Investigators believe that the mother was sick before she gave birth to the girls, but she was not tested until after her death.

Suspicions about the risk of a possible outbreak arose after a number of staff at the hospital who treated her became ill. They also believe that the mother contracted the disease from a dairy product that used raw milk.

Raw Milk Concerns

Unpasteurized milk, also known as raw milk, has become an increasing trend due to the belief that there are additional health benefits. However, raw milk raises substantial concerns among health officials, as it has not been treated to kill organisms such as E. coli and Salmonella.

According to the FDA, sale of raw milk is only allowed in 20 states, and it is illegal to sell across state lines. The FDA recommends that consumers not drink raw milk of any kind.

State health officials have already tested more than 200 staff and 69 of their friends and family. While the families of children who were in the NICU at the time were notified of an investigation, they were not told to get tested until this week.

According to SNHD, the initial phase of the investigation concluded that no NICU babies had been in close contact with the infected mother. However, since determining that some hospital staff were infected, the agency is now asking those families to get tested in case staff then passed on the infections to other babies.

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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