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Two former City Hospital patients test positive for TB

February 01, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- Two former City Hospital patients who might have been exposed to tuberculosis last year had positive skin tests for the disease, officials said Friday.

Neither were determined to be active cases, and one positive test predated the individual's visit to the hospital between April and November, the time frame that concerned hospital officials, said Dr. Diana Gaviria, Berkeley County's health officer.

The second patient tested positive for tuberculosis at a health department outside Berkeley County, but Gaviria could not say Friday whether the woman was exposed to the disease at City Hospital. The mother's child tested negative, Gaviria said.

In December, City Hospital officials notified almost 880 former patients that they might have been exposed to tuberculosis after learning that an employee who worked in the obstetrics unit was diagnosed with the disease Nov. 29.

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Hospital spokeswoman Teresa McCabe said Friday that the infected employee remains on a leave of absence, but was "doing well" and completing treatment.

The hospital employee tested positive for TB exposure after a skin test during an October exam, McCabe had said. Further testing revealed the diagnosis, and the employee immediately left work and sought treatment.

Other hospital employees who potentially were exposed to the disease tested negative, said McCabe, who is vice president of marketing and development for West Virginia University Hospitals-East.

About 300 of the 880 people notified were examined at free screenings offered at the Berkeley County Health Department, and Gaviria said another 20 or so were examined elsewhere.

On Friday, Gaviria and McCabe said a meeting was planned next week to discuss what could be done to reach the remaining patients who were sent notification letters, but apparently didn't respond.

"It is possible to be infected and still feel fine," Gaviria said.

Since November, hospital officials have been working 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 patients who might have been exposed.

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

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