SANTA CLARA (KRON) — More than 1,000 people, including 350 infants, may have been exposed to tuberculosis this fall after a nurse at Santa Clara County Medical Center in San Jose was diagnosed with the disease, hospital officials said
An employee at a Santa Clara medical center was placed on leave in mid-November after they were suspected of having active tuberculosis, authorities announced Friday.
The nurse and all other hospital employees are screened for tuberculosis once a year and the nurse’s test in September came back negative, hospital officials said.
The nurse received the diagnosis after the September test results were in.
The employee worked in the Mother & Infant Care Center at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in the area of the newborn nursery, infants and their mothers, according to hospital officials.
Hospital officials have identified 1,056 people at greatest risk, a number made up of the 350 infants, 368 mothers and 338 employees, Harris said.
“We are committed to the safety of our patients and staff,” said Dr. Stephen Harris, Chair of Pediatrics. “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.”
Infants face severe possible consequences from the disease, including death, Harris said.
“It can be life-threatening,” he said.
Unlike in toddlers and adults, the infection in an infant can get into the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body, he said. In toddlers and adults the infection stays in the lungs, he said. The disease tends to smolder for months before becoming deadly,
The disease tends to smolder for months before becoming deadly, though diagnoses are often made late, Harris said. Hospital officials spent a month preparing to notify people of the
Hospital officials spent a month preparing to notify people of the potential exposure because officials had to consult with experts on, among other things, the window in which the exposure may have taken place and treatments, Harris said.
“We’re confident we’re addressing the situation with great speed,” he said.
The hospital said mother and patients who were in the center between mid-August and mid-November 2015 were at risk of exposure.
Valley Medical Center officials say that it is very unlikely that infants who may have been exposed will come down with the disease, but the consequences of an infection can be severe.
SCVMC will provide both diagnostic testing and preventative daily treatments of isoniazid, an antibiotic that kills TB and can successfully prevent infants from becoming ill.
“That’s a big deal,” Harris said. “That is not something to be taken lightly.”
The antibiotic kills tuberculosis and can prevent the infant from becoming ill, hospital officials said. Harris said isoniazid is effective at preventing tuberculosis from setting up shop in both infants and adults.
None of the 1,056 people potentially exposed will have to pay for screening or treatment, hospital officials said. The cost will be picked up by the medical center, which is owned and operated by the county.
Mothers and employees will be screened and treated, if needed, with the same antibiotic as the infants for the same period of time. Harris said the likelihood anyone was exposed is low because the nurse with the disease had no symptoms.She was not sneezing or coughing, two
She was not sneezing or coughing, two ways the disease is spread, hospital officials said. Only active tuberculosis can be spread, Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said. Inactive or latent tuberculosis can reside in the
body for a period of time and then become active again, health officials said. Of the 1,056 people potentially exposed, no one has reported an
Of the 1,056 people potentially exposed, no one has reported an infection, hospital officials said.
350 infants were at risk of exposure and will be monitored closely for signs of active tuberculosis.
All patients, visitors and employees who were potentially exposed have been identified and are being contacted by phone and receiving letters explaining what they need to do.
The bacteria that causes TB is spread through the air from one person to another when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Only active TB can be spread.
Anyone potentially exposed can call (408) 885-3444 to make an appointment, according to hospital officials.