Chicago Hospital Patients Exposed to Tuberculosis

Hundreds of patients, including children and infants, have been exposed to <"">tuberculosis (TB) from a resident who worked at several hospitals in the Chicago area. According to eFitness Now, three hospitals in the Chicago area are the likely origin of the outbreak that exposed hundreds of staff and children to the dangerous disease, which can be fatal if left untreated.

Late last week, Chicago’s Department of Public Health announced that a resident—who later was reported to be from Northwestern University—tested positive for TB, said eFitness Now. The resident is a 26-year-old female, said the Chicago Tribune. The resident apparently worked in three hospitals in Chicago over the past year. eFitness Now reported that it is possible that that the resident contracted the disease in the time between required annual screenings, citing Kathleen Keenan, a spokesperson for Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, adding that the resident’s name could not be released. In addition to Northwestern and Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Evanston Hospital was also involved in the exposure.

The Chicago Tribune just announced that the pediatric resident worked between November 3 and 19, which is a bit longer than first reported. The Chicago Tribune said the pediatric resident was complaining of symptoms consistent with “active” TB such as “coughing, night sweats, fever, chills, and weight loss.” TB is a bacterial disease, said the Chicago Tribune, which typically affects the lungs, but can affect the “brain, kidneys, spine,” as well as other body parts. The hospitals are notifying patients who might have been exposed to the pediatric resident in the past 10 months, said the Chicago Tribune.

The resident tested negative for TB last July during a mandatory testing prior to starting her clinical rotations at the three Chicago hospitals, said MedPage Today. After being diagnosed, the woman was hospitalized and then released. It was unclear how the resident became ill; however, in 2007, she worked in an African AIDS clinic and it is believed she contracted the disease “during her clinical rotations,” said MedPage Today. The clinic is in Botswana, noted the Chicago Tribune, which added that drug-resistant TB is common in that area.

The Chicago Tribune said the resident was most recently at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital and was in contact with about 150 children and infants and more than 300 workers, with rotations that exposed her to over 100 patients, including 17 newborns, at Northwestern Memorial’s Prentice Women’s Hospital between November 3 and 21. Also, 80 babies at Evanston Hospital’s infant special care unit, including 20 who were still there late last week and some employees were in contact with the resident between February 12 and March 11, said the Chicago Tribune, which noted that the three hospitals are part of Northwestern University’s residency training program.

“She did have some time when she was contagious at those three institutions,” Dr. Susan Gerber, chief medical officer of the Public Health Department, told the Tribune in an interview. “We are researching the different days and different places that she has been during the time that she would have been contagious,” Dr. Gerber added.

TB can be present, but without symptoms for years, noted the Tribune.

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