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Health Worker May Have Exposed Newborns to TB

Many of our readers have heard troubling stories of people going into the hospital and ending up more ill than they were due to exposure to bacteria or a virus. Parents of newborns may be particularly concerned since babies aren’t born with fully-developed immune systems.

Across the country in Northern California, hundreds of parents are confronting their worst fears. The Santa Clara Valley Medical Center announced that one of its employees assigned to its infant care center tested positive for tuberculosis.

According to the facility, some 800 people, including newborn babies, may have been exposed to the bacteria that causes TB — a potentially dangerous infection that generally affects the lungs — in the center between August and November. TB can be particularly serious in babies because, according to a hospital spokesman, the bacteria can get into their bloodstream and from there “go everywhere in the body, including the brain.”

Unlike adults, babies cannot be tested for TB. Therefore, the hospital is recommending a six-month course of antibiotics and chest x-rays for the 350 babies.

So far, there are no reports of infection by the employee. However, the hospital is notifying anyone who may be been exposed.

How did this happen? According to the medical center, the employee, who is now on leave, tested negative for TB in September and showed no outward signs later.

Interestingly, in 2013, the county that is home to both this medical center and America’s tech hub, Silicon Valley, garnered the unfortunate distinction of having among the highest rates of TB in the country. A local Congressman speculated that this was in large part because people travel to the area on business and for other reasons from countries where TB hasn’t been contained as it has in the U.S.

The hospital is trying to assure worried parents that the likelihood of their little one having contracted TB while in the hospital is low. However, they strongly urge them to follow the recommended precautions.

Patients who are very young or whose health and immune systems may already be compromised are susceptible to infection by medical personnel and staff who are in close contact with them. That’s why these facilities are required to take precautions to help ensure against contamination. If these precautions aren’t taken or they fail, victims and family members have every right to consider holding a medical facility and/or individuals legally accountable, no matter what part of the country they are in.

Source: NBC Los Angeles Channel 4, “Hundreds of Newborns Possibly Exposed to TB in Calif. Hospital,” Michelle Roberts, Dec. 11, 2015

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