LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas public health officials say dozens of people linked to a tuberculosis outbreak at a neonatal unit have tested positive for the disease.
The Southern Nevada Health District reported on Monday that of the 977 people tested, 59 showed indications of the disease, though all but two of the cases are latent — meaning patients don’t show symptoms and aren’t contagious.
Dr. Joe Iser, chief medical officer at the health district, said the report demonstrates the importance of catching tuberculosis early.
“We want physicians to really think about making the diagnosis and quarantining, and then calling us,” he said. “This has been very expensive for us in terms of time and effort and dollars.”
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A state report released last month found that Summerlin Hospital Medical Center failed to recognize and take precautions to diagnose the infected woman’s contagious lung disease when she gave birth in May to premature twin daughters, and allowed the woman to continue visiting her babies after she was discharged.
One of 25-year-old Vanessa White’s babies died in June. White died in July at a Los Angeles hospital and was diagnosed with tuberculosis through an autopsy. Her other baby died of tuberculosis on Aug. 1 at Summerlin Hospital.
Iser said officials cannot know for sure that all 59 cases are directly linked to the Las Vegas hospital. Several of those tested are immigrants from countries where tuberculosis is more prevalent, and could have been exposed earlier in their lives, he said.
The health district is encouraging all 59 people to accept treatment.
TB is spread through the air when a sick person coughs, sneezes or speaks. Symptoms include coughing, chest pain, fever and fatigue. The disease usually attacks the lungs, but can affect other organs and can be fatal if not properly treated.