Nevada health officials urged tuberculosis testing for hundreds of babies, family members, and staff at a Las Vegas neonatal intensive care unit where a mother and her twin babies died and 26 people have been found to be infected.
Authorities with the Southern Nevada Health District are contacting parents of about 140 babies who were at Summerlin Hospital Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit between mid-May and mid-August, and have set up a temporary clinic to test them, the Associated Press (AP) reports.
Among those tested so far, 26 people have TB infections, although most of these are latent cases—the patients are not showing symptoms and are not contagious, according to the AP. All 26 are being treated, health district officials say. While it is unlikely that the babies who may have been exposed will come down with the disease, according to Dr. Joe Iser, the health district’s chief medical officer, officials are undertaking widespread testing out of “an abundance of caution.”
Health officials think the mother, who was ill before the births, contracted TB through an unpasteurized dairy product from Latin America. She gave birth to the extremely premature twins in the Las Vegan area in early May. One baby died at three weeks of respiratory failure and extreme prematurity, according to the Clark County (Nevada) coroner, and she was not tested for TB. Because of the mother’s illness, the second baby was tested and treated for TB. She died on August 1. The mother was transferred to a Southern California hospital “for a higher level of care,” according the AP. She died in California; an autopsy showed she had tuberculosis meningitis.
Tuberculosis is spread through the air when a sick person coughs, sneezes or speaks. Symptoms include coughing, chest pain, fever, and fatigue. It can be fatal if not properly treated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 569 TB deaths in the U.S. in 2010, the most recent year for which data is available. TB cases have been on a steady decline in the U.S. since a resurgence in 1992, and in 2012 reached their lowest level since 1953, when national reporting began, the AP reports.