More than 300 infants may have been exposed to tuberculosis at a San Jose, California, hospital by one of the employees, the hospital said.
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The Santa Clara Valley Medical Center learned in mid-November that an employee who worked in the newborn nursery was suspected of having active tuberculosis, the hospital said in a news release Friday, and the employee was placed on leave.
Three-hundred fifty infants may have been exposed, the hospital said, adding that they will be monitored closely for signs.
Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that spreads through the air from person to person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and if it is not treated properly, the disease can be fatal.
"While the risk of infection is low, the consequences of a tuberculosis infection in infants can be severe," Dr. Stephen Harris, Chair of Pediatrics, said. "That's why we decided to do widespread testing and start preventative treatments for these infants as soon as possible."
Santa Clara Valley Medical Center said in a statement that it will "provide both diagnostic testing and preventative daily treatments of isoniazid, an antibiotic that kills tuberculosis and can successfully prevent infants from becoming ill."
Mothers and employees who may have also been exposed will be screened and give preventative treatment if needed, according to the hospital statement. Everyone who was potentially exposed has been identified, and the hospital is contacting all mothers who were in the Mother & Infant Care Center between mid-August and mid-November.
"This incident is an unfortunate reminder that TB remains an ongoing health concern for our community," Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said. "The Public Health Department is working closely with our SCVMC colleagues to support their efforts in addressing the needs of their patients and staff."
The Medical Center's employees undergo annual tuberculosis screening, and when the employee with TB underwent her screening in September, she tested negative, the hospital said. It was the employee's physician who discovered the TB when the employee underwent evaluation for an unrelated medical condition, the hospital statement said, adding that, "even before the hospital received a confirmed diagnosis, the employee was placed on leave."
Mothers looking to set up an appointment can call 408-885-3444.