Las Vegas public health officials reports that 59 people have tested positive for tuberculosis after being exposed to it at a Nevada hospital neonatal intensive care unit.
A report released last month indicated that Summerlin Hospital Medical Center was not able to take precautions and failed to diagnose an infected woman’s lung disease. Vanessa White gave birth to premature twin daughters at the hospital last May. The hospital allowed the woman to visit her babies even after she was discharged.
One of the babies died last June. White herself died last July at a Los Angeles Hospital. An autopsy of her body revealed that she had tuberculosis. The other twin died last August 1 at the Summerlin Hospital due to tuberculosis.
When the hospital learned about the infection hundreds of letters were sent out to patients last August. After hospital employees tested positive for tuberculosis health officials called out the patients to have an immediate testing. They fear that around 140 infants may have been exposed between the months of May to August.
Dr. Christopher Ohl, an infectious disease expert at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, said that an outbreak tied to a hospital is extremely unusual. “Unfortunately, this situation is a hospital epidemiologist’s worst nightmare as neonates are highly susceptible to contracting TB and their infections can progress quite rapidly.”
Dr. Joe Iser, chief medical officer at the health district of Southern Nevada said that it is very important that tuberculosis must be detected as early as possible. “We want physicians to really think about making the diagnosis and quarantining, and then calling us. This has been very expensive for us in terms of time and effort and dollars.”
Of the 977 people tested for tuberculosis 59 had latent infections while 2 had active infections.
Tuberculosis is a disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It usually attacks the lungs but is also known to attack other parts of the body. If not treated immediately it can usually be fatal. This disease was once the leading cause of death in the United States.