Hospital Worker Tested Positive for Tuberculosis

Electron microscopy image of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, courtesy of Sanofi Pasteur.

An employee in the maternity ward of Roosevelt Hospital in Midtown Manhattan has tested positive for tuberculosis.  The hospital released a statement in which it said that repeated, prolonged exposure is needed to contract the disease, so there was a minimal risk of patient infection.

The bacteria can often remain in the body unnoticed, but can cause serious lung disease if activated. Hospital workers are routinely required to be vaccinated because they work in a high-risk environment (infection-wise), so it is surprising that this particular employee contracted the disease.

This news comes at the same time as another update on MRSA at Veterans Affairs hospitals. MRSA is a bacterial strain that is antibiotic resistant and thus extremely difficult to treat. It is also often acquired in hospitals. Researchers found that simple quality control measures including testing patients and wearing gloves reduced infection rates by more than 40 percent. These regulations should be in effect in every hospital. Maybe similar measures in Roosevelt Hospital would have prevented the tuberculosis infection.

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