(HOUSTON) – More than 700 newborns who were born at an El Paso hospital are at risk of developing Tuberculosis. A person who worked in the postpartum department and the nursery at Providence Memorial Hospital has tested positive for the disease. But a Houston neonatologist at Texas Children’s Hospital says this never should have happened.
Dr. Michael Speer says hospitals need to adhere to already well know guidelines regarding protecting the populace and protecting their own employees. The guidelines come down from the Centers for Disease Control, and include testing employees for various diseases at the time of hiring, and then periodically after that.
Those in charge at Providence Memorial Hospital say they do test annually for TB, and the employee must have picked it up between screenings, but the Texas Department of State Health Services has reported it’s found the hospital’s infection-management standards lacking.
Regardless, any infant or adult that came in contact with the employee between September 2013 and August 2014 is being tested for Tuberculosis.
Dr. Speer says Tuberculosis is the kind of disease you can carry for a long time before it becomes “active.” He says if any of these babies test positive for the disease, but are not showing any symptoms, they will be treated with medications that will keep them from getting sick.
None of the adults exposed to the worker have tested positive.
So what do you do if you or someone you know is about to go into the hospital to have a baby, and you’re concerned about the hospital’s infection control policies?
Dr. Spear says you can feel pretty comfortable that the hospitals in Houston adhere to strict policies, but if you’re still concerned, ask.
“They should ask the hospital, through its infection control department, what kind of screening do you do to prevent my child or myself from being exposed to tuberculosis,” he said.
Active cases of Tuberculosis can spread through the air when an infected person coughs and sneezes. Treatment requires months of antibiotics. Untreated TB can lead to death.
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