The Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, located in San Jose, CA, is reporting on a possible tuberculosis exposure that may affect some 300+ infants. The hospital says it was notified mid-November that an employee was suspected of having active tuberculosis. The employee worked in the area of the newborn nursery and is currently on leave.

Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria/CDC
Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria/CDC

The hospital has reached out to moms who were in our Mother & Infant Care Center between mid-August 2015 and mid-November 2015.

“We are committed to the safety of our patients and staff,” said Dr. Stephen Harris, Chair of Pediatrics. “While the risk of infection is low, the consequences of a tuberculosis infection in infants can be severe. That’s why we decided to do widespread testing and start preventative treatments for these infants as soon as possible.”

While it is very unlikely that infants who may have been exposed will come down with the disease, the consequences of infection in infants can be serious.  SCVMC will provide both diagnostic testing and preventative daily treatments of isoniazid, an antibiotic that kills tuberculosis and can successfully prevent infants from becoming ill.  The 350 infants that may have been exposed will be monitored closely for signs of active tuberculosis.  Moms and employees who may have been exposed will be screened and provided preventative treatment if needed.

Paul Lorenz, CEO of Valley Medical Center said Friday:

You may have seen some of the news today about a tuberculosis exposure. Everyone should feel confident that our staff are appropriately screened for tuberculosis and the safety of patients and staff is our top priority. I want to thank everyone who is working hard to make sure we provide the care needed to our patients and staff. Dr. Stephen Harris has been a true leader and champion in this effort. He, and the entire team, reflect the true values of this organization and make us proud. Since the announcement to the media, we have received responses from many individuals who expressed understanding of the situation and support for our response. This exposure was an unusual and unfortunate circumstance. Thank you for your support of Valley Medical Center.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but TB bacteria can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine, and brain. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.

TB is spread through the air from one person to another. The TB bacteria are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. People nearby may breathe in these bacteria and become infected.