California – A hospital in South Bay, California, is trying to locate more than 350 newborns and their mothers who may have been exposed to tuberculosis. The warning came on Saturday after the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center announced that a nurse working at the Mother & Infant Care Center, tested positive for the disease.
However, Dr. Stephen Harris, Chair of Pediatrics from Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, didn’t call it an emergency, stating that it is very unlikely that infants who may have been exposed, will come down with the disease. Officials of the hospital said it was important to proactively locate the 350 babies after they were possibly exposed to the nurse with active tuberculosis.
According to CBS News, those at greatest risk of exposure in this incident are infants, mothers and hospital employees since hospital officials identified 1,056 people at higher risk, a number formed by the 350 children, 368 mothers, and 338 employees.
“We are committed to the safety of our patients and staff. While the risk of infection is low, the consequences of a tuberculosis infection in infants can be severe. That’s why we decided to do widespread testing and start preventative treatments for these infants as soon as possible,” Harris said in a statement.
As stated by ABC News, the hospital is contacting mothers of babies who were in the nursery and had contact with the infected nurse between mid-August and mid-November.
The nurse was diagnosed with tuberculosis when she started a treatment for an unrelated illness.
The nurse and other hospital employees are screened for tuberculosis once a year. However, the nurse’s test made on September 2014, turned negative, hospital officials said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium that spreads through the air from person to person, by coughing and sneezing, and if it is not treated properly, the disease can be fatal.
The unit of Pediatrics recommended that all infants should be treated with a daily antibiotic for six to nine months. Isoniazid, the recommended antibiotic, kills tuberculosis and may prevent the child from getting sick.
The babies, who were probably exposed to the bacteria, will be monitored for any signs of active tuberculosis. Similarly, the mothers and employees who also may have been exposed will be screened and, if necessary, they will provide them preventive treatment.
Valley Medical Center has sent letters to affected families and established a call center to answer questions and concerns.