Friday, April 13, 2007

Bronx hospital patients exposed to TB in nurse

Early this year, a foreign-born nurse infected with tuberculosis worked in the maternity ward and nursery at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, New York. As a result, 700 workers and patients, including 238 infants, were exposed to the dangerous disease.

Ultimately, seven people tested positive latent tuberculosis, developed after they were exposed to the infectious nurse.

The incidence of TB in New York City declined over the past decade, but the percentage of cases in health care workers increased slightly over the same period—from 3 percent in the early 1990s to 4 percent in 2002, a small but significant change.

A nationwide nursing shortage has caused a large influx of foreign-born workers, many from regions of the world where TB persists in epidemic proportions. Not all health care workers get tested for tuberculosis when they are first hired, and those who are tested and are shown to carry the latent form of the disease may not do anything about it. About half never get treatment.

Because they work with those most susceptible to infection—newborns and people with compromised immune systems, health care workers with latent TB present a unique threat and should be treated.

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