Dozens Of Babies Exposed To Deadly Tuberculosis In California

By Amir Khan on May 25, 2012 12:27 PM EDT

Baby
Over 30 infants may have been exposed to tuberculosis, according to California health officials (Photo: Creative Commons)

Over 30 infants may have been exposed to tuberculosis, according to California health officials. The babies were exposed after an undiagnosed person visited the neonatal unit of Sacramento's Sutter Memorial Hospital and Fairfield's NorthBay Medical Center.

Tuberculosis is a treatable lung infection that causes chest pain, coughing, weight loss, fever and night sweats, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If left untreated, half of people infected with TB die.

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The name of the person is being withheld, but health officials say he was undiagnosed at the time of the visits, which occurred at the end of March and mid-April.

"We knew who the person was and the person was certainly there for a reason," Steve Huddleston, a spokesman for NorthBay Hospital, told the Associated Press.

TB is treated with a combination of antibiotics over six months. If treatment is stopped, the bacteria can surge and mutate into a strain that cannot be killed by conventional drugs, which makes the disease even deadlier.

"We will take the necessary measures to ensure that all those with significant levels of exposure are tested and, if necessary, treated with antibiotics," Dr. Michael Stacey, chief medical officer of California's Solano County Public Health Department, told ABC News.

Tuberculosis is particularly deadly in infants and children, but the disease is difficult to test for in them, Jeffrey Starke, director of the children's tuberculosis clinic at Texas Children's Hospital, who has investigated more than 30 hospital exposures of tuberculosis, told ABC News. In order to determine how at risk the babies are, researchers will test the hospital staff for TB.

"The hospital staff is indicators of whether there's a problem of infection spread," Starke said. "If anybody got infected during that time, then their blood test or TB test now should be active."

Exposure does not necessarily mean the babies will contract the disease, but they are being placed on antibiotics as a precautionary measure, according to the Associated Press.

Stacey told the AP that the man who exposed the babies is currently being treated but is not in trouble.

"This is an unfortunate situation that happened, but it was not the fault of the person or the hospitals," he said.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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