El Paso Department of Public Health Investigates TB Exposure at Local Hospital

The City of El Paso Department of Public Health (DPH) has determined that more than 700 patients and more than 40 employees were exposed to a hospital employee with an active case of tuberculosis (TB) in the post-partum and newborn nursery area of Providence Memorial Hospital (PMH). This exposure took place between September 2013 and August 2014.

The DPH is working closely with the staff of PMH and has carefully reviewed employment and medical records to determine exactly which infants and employees were exposed. The families of each patient are being contacted via telephone and certified letter with proactive screening instructions.

To date, 706 patients and 43 exposed employees have been identified. Post-exposure screen and follow-up will be provided free of charge through the DPH and PMH. Public Health officials are collaborating with state officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to facilitate these screenings.

Tuberculosis can be spread when a person with active TB disease coughs or sneezes, releasing secretion droplets with the germs into the air. However, TB is not highly contagious and generally requires close contact over an extended period of time in order to be spread.Once in the body the bacteria usually lay dormant for months or years before they begin to grow and cause a case of active TB. That is why it is so important to identify people who may have been exposed, screen them, and provide treatment that can prevent them from ever developing active TB disease. Only persons with active TB disease can spread TB bacteria to others. Before you would be able to spread TB to others, you would have to breathe in TB bacteria and develop active infection.

The El Paso Department of Public Health and Providence Memorial Hospital are working closely with Texas State Health officials and the CDC.

Source: El Paso Department of Public Health