Mothers, Infants May Have Been Exposed to TB at Northern California Hospital

More than 1,000 individuals may have been exposed to tuberculosis in November after a nurse at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Calif. was diagnosed with the disease, hospital officials announced last week. Santa Clara Valley Medical Center says that when it was notified that an employee was suspected of having active tuberculosis, the employee was placed on leave to reduce the risk of exposure to patients, visitors and staff.

Because this employee worked in the area of the newborn nursery, more than 350 infants and their mothers may have been exposed. The hospital is reaching out to mothers who were in the medical center's Mother & Infant Care Center between mid-August 2015 and mid-November 2015.
“We are committed to the safety of our patients and staff,” says Dr. Stephen Harris, chair of pediatrics. “While the risk of infection is low, the consequences of a tuberculosis infection in infants can be severe. That’s why we decided to do widespread testing and start preventative treatments for these infants as soon as possible.”

The hospital said in a statement, "While it is very unlikely that infants who may have been exposed will come down with the disease, the consequences of infection in infants can be serious. SCVMC will provide both diagnostic testing and preventative daily treatments of isoniazid, an antibiotic that kills tuberculosis and can successfully prevent infants from becoming ill.  The 350 infants that may have been exposed will be monitored closely for signs of active tuberculosis. Moms and employees who may have been exposed will be screened and provided preventative treatment if needed."

“This incident is an unfortunate reminder that TB remains an ongoing health concern for our community,” says Dr. Sara Cody, health officer. “The Public Health Department is working closely with our SCVMC colleagues to support their efforts in addressing the needs of their patients and staff. "

Santa Clara Valley Medical Center says it takes tuberculosis testing of employees very seriously and implements nationally recognized prevention practices to stop the spread of the disease when it is identified. All hospital employees undergo rigorous annual tuberculosis screening, which is in place to protect patients and staff. This employee underwent her annual tuberculosis test in September 2015. 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. 

Source: Santa Clara Valley Medical Center