After a nurse at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose was diagnosed with tuberculosis, hospital officials said Friday that they believe more than 1,000 people, including 350 newborns, may have also been exposed to the disease.
The nurse, who works in the Mother and Infant Care Center of the hospital, according to ABC, was treated for an unrelated illness in mid-November, and was concurrently screened for tuberculosis, for which she tested positive (a routine test for TB in September was negative). She was immediately placed on a paid leave of absence.
CBS S.F. reports that officials have accounted for 1,056 people who are at greatest risk of contracting TB, a number made up of 350 infants, 368 mothers and 338 employees, said Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Chair of Pediatrics Dr. Stephen Harris. According to Harris, tuberculosis can be "life-threatening" for infants; unlike with adults, the disease can get into the bloodstream and effect other parts of the baby's body.
TB is typically spread through the air, by either coughing or sneezing. Harris said that the nurse "is not a very contagious individual" and that she "was not coughing up tuberculosis during the time she was working." Way to look on the bright side, I guess?
As a precaution against potentially devastating consequences of TB, the Mercury News reports that all 350 infants born during mid-August and mid-November will be required to take an oral antibiotic treatment for six to nine months, even if they test negative for the disease.
But Dr. Lisa Winston, a UC San Francisco professor of medicine and hospital epidemiologist told the Mercury News that various TB tests might not be accurate; both tuberculosis skin testing and blood tests can be negative in people who have latent TB and people who have active TB.
"It is also possible the nurse contracted TB between September and November," Winston said. "But given the short time frame, one might guess that a false negative test is more likely."
Harris said the hospital is working to notify those who might have been exposed by mail, and phone, and that screening and treatment visits begin Monday. Hospital officials said that anyone who believes they were potentially exposed can call (408) 885-3444 to make an appointment.