Person with active tuberculosis visited two Calif. neonatal units
Little information has been released about the contagious individual, who was not a hospital employee or health care worker. The person has since been placed in isolation and is receiving treatment. Officials have cited patient privacy laws in not offering details that could lead to identifying the individual.
The Solano County resident visited Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento during the last half of March and NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield in early and mid-April.
"We knew who the person was and the person was certainly there for a reason," said Steve Huddleston, a spokesman for NorthBay.
The person was not diagnosed with tuberculosis until late last week and had just recently started showing symptoms, said Dr. Olivia Kasirye, chief public health officer for Sacramento County.
Initially a total of 35 babies were thought to have been exposed at the two hospitals for the bacteria that can lead to a sometimes fatal respiratory disease, but officials lowered their estimate to 26 at most. Kasirye said 20 babies were thought to have been exposed in Sacramento but further evaluation of hospital records showed only 11 were at potential risk.
Officials said they believed the risk of infection to the infants was low but were asking parents to have the babies tested by their doctors by the end of the week.
Because access to neonatal intensive care units is tightly controlled and records are kept on everyone who comes and goes, the hospitals were able to identify everyone who may have been exposed to the infected person, Kasirye said.
Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is normally spread through the air, but cannot be passed by sharing drinks or food or touching someone's hand.
Exposure to tuberculosis often does not lead to the full-blown active version of the disease, in which patients typically come down with a bad cough and chest pain and sometimes cough up blood. Instead, the infection can lie dormant for years, only emerging when a patient's immune system weakens. In untreated cases, it can be fatal. Having health problems, like HIV, can make it hard for patients to fight off the disease.
Because the babies are already in a vulnerable state, most will likely be placed on an antibiotic to eradicate the germ and prevent the active version of the disease from developing, said Dr. Michael Stacey, chief medical officer for Solano County. He told CBS station KOVR in Sacramento, Calif. that any adults who were at the hospital at the time will be tested for their safety and to see how contagious that person was at the time. Initial test say that the strain is not drug-resistant.
"From the medical evidence we have reviewed so far, we believe that the risk of infection with TB in this particular case is low," Stacey said to KOVR. "We will take the necessary measures to ensure that all those with significant levels of exposure are tested and, if necessary, treated with antibiotics."
In recent years, varieties of tuberculosis that don't respond to standard antibiotics have raised fears that a disease once thought effectively eradicated in the U.S. could become more prevalent.
Last week, California took the unusual step of jailing and charging a tuberculosis patient who they say refused to take medication to keep his disease from becoming contagious, CBS News reported. Stacey said the current case is purely a public health issue and that no further investigation is under way as officials focus on making sure everyone possibly exposed is safe.
"This is an unfortunate situation that happened, but it was not the fault of the person or the hospitals," he said.
The CDC has more on tuberculosis.
Popular in Health
- FDA: 7 infections linked to Tenn. compounding pharmacy
- Surgeons remove 4-pound hairball from tiger 10 Photos
- Teens guiltiest of underestimating calories in fast food
- Once obese dachshund gets surgery to remove excess skin
- Drinking sugary drinks daily linked to kidney stones
- Texas baby born after her mother was technically dead
- How to get in shape for your wedding
- Skin cancer self-exam: What to look for (PHOTOS)