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TB Scare Prompts Chicago Hospitals to Test Patients, Workers

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By David Goguen on April 13, 2009 2:37 PM

Three hospitals in the Chicago area are testing employees and patients in an effort to determine the extent of a tuberculosis health scare after a first-year pediatric resident was diagnosed with TB last week. 

According to the Chicago Tribune, a 26-year-old female pediatric resident from Northwestern University who was diagnosed with TB "most recently had worked at Children's Memorial Hospital, from Nov. 20 to April 3, where she was in contact with at least 150 children and more than 300 workers." So far no patients or hospital employees have tested positive for TB.

CNN is reporting that the unidentified woman required hospitalization, but early tests indicate that the particular strain of the bacteria was not believed to be drug-resistant. Testing of employees and patients is ongoing at Evanston Hospital (north of Chicago), Northwestern Memorial Hospital (Chicago), and Children's Memorial Hospital (Chicago).

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that usually attacks the lungs, and the disease spreads from person to person in the air, through coughing and sneezing. Not everyone infected with TB becomes sick, but if left untreated the disease can be fatal. Learn more: Questions and Answers About TB, from the CDC.

Once the leading cause of death in the U.S., tuberculosis cases have declined dramatically in the last century. According to the CDC, there were just under 13,000 tuberculosis (TB) cases reported in the U.S. in 2008, down 3.8 percent from 2007 figures, and the lowest TB rate recorded since national reporting began in 1953.