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Newborns exposed to TB in maternity ward

Families in New Jersey might want to know about a hospital worker who medical officials say might have exposed babies to tuberculosis, which is a highly infectious disease. It is unclear if any medical malpractice was involved; hospital officials say that the worker had previously tested negative for TB and that there was no indication of a problem.

The incident happened in the maternity ward at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. Hospital officials said that a TB test revealed that one of the maternity ward employees had the disease. Officials from the Manhattan hospital said that they quickly notified the health department and began contacting patients who were exposed to the employee after the positive test results came in on Oct. 30. They said that patients who had not come in contact with the infected worker were not at risk.

Hospital officials did not state when the potential exposure began. However, former patients told a media outlet that they had given birth there two months earlier, and the hospital contacted them to say that they might have been exposed. The hospital said that it would cover the cost of infants' TB tests done by private doctors if they are not reimbursed by insurance. TB bacteria are spread through the air, and people can become infected when they breathe it into their lungs. Although it is usually easily treated if caught early, the infection has become increasingly resistant to treatment and is a huge problem in some areas around the world.

When a patient is admitted to a hospital, he or she might generally expect it to be a safe place to heal in. However, because both patients and personnel can be carriers of contagious airborne diseases, if precautions are not taken, these diseases can spread. If patients contract diseases due to improper containment by the hospital, they may try to hold the hospital financially responsible for their increased expenses.

Source: NY Daily News, "Manhattan hospital worker may have exposed hundreds of babies to tuberculosis", Corky Siemaszko, November 01, 2013

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