El Paso Hospital May Have Exposed Over 850 Babies To Tuberculosis

| by Jared Keever

Five babies at an El Paso, Texas, hospital have tested positive for tuberculosis after being exposed to a nurse who came to work with an active case of the disease, health officials said Saturday.

Robert Resendes, the director of the El Paso Health Department, said the children are not themselves considered to have an active case of the disease.

Resendes said his agency is monitoring the situation and has it under control.

“This is nothing new, it just may be a little larger than we are used to dealing with,” he said at a press conference, according to KVIA. “But it is something we know how to deal with.”

CNN reports more than 850 babies and more than 43 hospital staffers were potentially exposed to the disease over a period of 11 months. 

Health officials first announced the possible exposure on Sept. 19 after an unnamed healthcare worker from the hospital’s postpartum unit tested positive for tuberculosis in August. 

Officials say the believe the employee could have become infected as far back as September 2013. 

Providence Memorial Hospital CEO Eric Evans said he takes responsibility for the situation and is working with his staff to help health officials remedy the problem.

“I first of all want to apologize to the families that are affected by this, and let you know as CEO of Providence Memorial Hospital, I and my colleagues take absolutely ownership of our role in this," Evans said. “They're a group of people that I'm very proud of, and they're all struggling with this happening in our facility. We're going to make this right.”

Tuberculosis is a bacteria that typically attacks and destroys the lungs of an infected person.

The infected nurse is no longer working at the hospital and is being treated. It has not been reported how he or she is thought to have contracted the disease

In a release, quoted by the El Paso Times, Resendes said his department was working to set up protocols to screen all those potentially exposed. 

"The El Paso Public Health Department is working closely with the Texas Department of Health Services, which is providing the screening and treatment protocols for this investigation," the statement read. “As can sometimes be the case, physicians may not be in total agreement with each other regarding patient treatment.”

Of the five children who tested positive, four had been given the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine which has been known to create false positives in tuberculosis tests. Still, all five will be treated for the potentially fatal disease, health officials said.

Source: KVIA, CNN, El Paso Times

Photo Source: Mark Lambie/El Paso Times, Providence Memorial Hospital