City Hospital employee diagnosed with TB

Officials notify patients of possible exposure to the disease

Officials notify patients of possible exposure to the disease

December 28, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. ? City Hospital officials on Thursday notified almost 900 former patients that they might have been exposed to tuberculosis.

Officials sent notification letters in Thursday's mail, said Teresa McCabe, vice president of marketing and development for West Virginia University Hospitals-East.

As many as 60 hospital employees also might have been exposed to tuberculosis, commonly known as TB, McCabe said.

A hospital employee who worked on the seventh-floor obstetrics unit was diagnosed Nov. 29 with tuberculosis, McCabe said. The 880 patients who were notified were in the obstetrics unit between April 9 and Nov. 29, according to a press release.

"We feel that exposure was minimal and we don't believe that anyone is at high risk of contracting TB because of this incident," McCabe said.


Hospital officials notified the media of the potential exposure in hopes that people will follow up with the letters they receive and get tested, she said.

The public wasn't notified immediately after the employee was diagnosed because the hospital didn't want to alarm anyone who hadn't potentially been exposed.

The Berkeley County Health Department is offering free tuberculosis screenings to those individuals notified by letter that they might have been exposed. The hospital is providing screenings and any necessary treatment to any employees who might have been exposed, McCabe said.

All hospital employees are tested for tuberculosis annually as part of employee physicals, McCabe said.

During an October exam, the employee tested positive for TB exposure on a skin test, McCabe said Friday. Further tests were ordered, and the employee was diagnosed, she said.

The employee immediately left work, sought treatment and has been on leave since the diagnosis, McCabe said.

Since the employee was diagnosed, hospital officials have been coordinating with the Berkeley County Health Department, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to contact those patients who might have been exposed, McCabe said.

Only patients who had direct contact with the infected employee were considered exposed, Dr. Diana Gaviria, Berkeley County's health officer, said in a press release.

What is tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis, also known as TB, is a disease caused by bacteria and usually attacks the lungs.

TB bacteria can attack any part of the body, including the kidney, spine and brain.

If not treated properly, tuberculosis can be fatal. The disease once was the leading cause of death in the U.S.

Symptoms usually show within 90 days of exposure, and most people who are exposed never develop symptoms. The most common symptoms are fever, night sweats, fatigue and weight loss.

For more information on tuberculosis, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's TB question-and-answer page at

Information provided by Dr. Diana Gaviria, Berkeley County health officer, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Web site.

Tuberculosis most commonly is spread through respiratory droplets, and contracting TB requires close contact with an infected person, Gaviria said Friday.

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