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Moms and babies possibly exposed to TB

August 27, 2008 5:50:22 AM PDT
New mothers and their babies may have been exposed to tuberculosis at a San Francisco hospital. San Francisco's Kaiser Permanente notified nearly 1,000 new mothers about possible exposure after a maternity ward nurse was diagnosed with tuberculosis.

The nurse may have had the disease as early as March.

Authorities want anyone who could have had contact with the nurse to come in for testing.

The list includes 960 infants, 960 mothers and 115 healthcare workers.

"The reason why we're going to feel this is going to protect our patients and our employees is prevention of development of the active disease is the best medicine for this," said Dr. Stephen Parodi, Kaiser Permanente Chair of Infectious Diseases.

Tuberculosis is a bacterial airborne disease that attacks the lungs. So far, only one other healthcare worker tested positive.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health believes most of Kaiser Permanente's patients likely didn't spend enough time with the nurse to contract the disease. However, there is still a high level of concern because newborns are involved.

"Because their immune system is brand new and actually inadequate, if they do get infected with TB they can end up with very bad forms of tuberculosis," said Masae Kawamura, San Francisco director of Tuberculosis Control.

The nurse who had the disease worked the night shift. Like all healthcare workers, she had annual health screenings. Public health workers say she did show signs of tuberculosis. However, not every infected person shows symptoms.

Luther McCay of Richmond says he contracted tuberculosis two years ago. He said his cough, at the time, did not seem serious.

"I just thought it was just a cold. And you wouldn't know the symptoms if you hadn't had TB," said McCay.

Kaiser Permanente says the infection risk for patients is low. They also say the nurse had a common strain of TB that responds well to antibiotics.

 

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