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By Gary Evans, Senior Staff Writer
As patient notifications of potential exposures to infectious diseases go, it doesn’t get much worse than telling parents their newborn baby may be in danger.
That’s the situation Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, CA, finds itself in, having recently notified patients by phone and letter that some 350 infants and their mothers may have been exposed to a health care worker with active tuberculosis between mid-August 2015 and mid-November 2015.
Now on leave for treatment, the employee worked in the newborn nursery in the hospital’s Mother & Infant Care Center.
“While the risk of infection is low, the consequences of a tuberculosis infection in infants can be severe,” Stephen Harris, MD, Chair of Pediatrics at Santa Clara Valley said in a statement. “That’s why we decided to do widespread testing and start preventative treatments for these infants as soon as possible.”
The hospital is doing both diagnostic testing and preventative daily treatments of isoniazid on the infants, which are being monitored closely for any signs of active infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Elements of risk include that the newborn immune system is not fully developed and may not respond to testing. Thus x-rays and preventative treatment will be done, and of course clinicians will act quickly if there is any sign of reduced susceptibility of the TB strain to the first line drug administered.
All patients, visitors and employees who were potentially exposed to the infected worker have been identified.
“The employee underwent her annual tuberculosis test in September 2015,” the hospital stated. “The screening was negative and the employee did not show symptoms at any time. Her physician discovered her TB when she underwent evaluation for an unrelated medical condition. Even before the hospital received a confirmed diagnosis, the employee was placed on leave.”