CREATED Oct. 7, 2013
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- A tuberculosis threat is raising concerns after Summerlin Hospital notified hundreds of people that they may have been exposed to the disease.
The red flags went up after a woman and her twins died of the disease and hospital employees became infected.
Health authorities identified 140 newborns and their parents who need TB testing, and say of the 192 staff that may have been exposed, 155 have been tested so far and 4 people have tested positive.
Now Summerlin Hospital is seeking out parents whose newborns were in the Level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit between May 11, 2013 and Aug. 8, 2013.
Jessica Hammond and her husband, Joseph Boswell, are two of those people.
They had enough to worry about when their newborn Max was born prematurely with weak lungs. He was admitted to Summerlin Hospitals Level 3 NICU for 18 days. It just so happens Max was NICU III at the same time the baby with active tuberculosis was being treated without quarantine.
A few weeks after Max went home, the hospital sent a letter to the family telling them what they'd discovered, but reassuring them that the risk for exposure was minimal and no action was required on their part.
All of that changed on Monday morning when Jessica got an urgent call from the Southern Nevada Health District, saying the whole family needed immediate testing."It wasn't oh, come in next month. They want you in this week," Hammond told Action News. "Our concerns are was he exposed, is he carrying anything? Are we as well?"
The answer is maybe. New information released after the Centers for Disease Control took over the investigation revealed the exposure was bigger in scope than hospital staff originally thought.
"One hospital employee has come down with active tuberculosis, so that made us much more aware that there could have been transmission in the NICU," said Dr. Joe Iser, Chief Officer for the Southern Nevada Health District.
Hospital officials say the problem was nobody knew the baby in NICU III had tuberculosis until it was too late. The child's mother was transferred to a Southern California hospital with severe birth complications and died soon after.A nd the child's twin -- who was also born prematurely -- was believed to have died from issues associated with premature birth.
During that time, the second twin was being treated at Summerlin Hospitals NICU III without quarantine. It wasn't until the mother's autopsy revealed tuberculosis as her cause of death that the second twin was tested for tuberculosis then quarantined after a positive result. Now, at least 4 staff members at Summerlin Hospital have tested positive for the disease, and hundreds of parents and children are being tracked down for testing.
"I work in a school, that's a big issue," Jessica Hammond said.
Hospital officials want to reiterate that only people whose children were in the NICU III between May 11 and Aug. 8 need to be tested. People who were general visitors to the hospital during that time are not considered at risk.
Summerlin Hospital is setting up a free clinic for those who may have been exposed to the disease in the NICU III unit, and will provide free chest x-rays for people who need additional followup. For more information on the clinics or tuberculosis, call 702-759-4636 or visit SNHD.info.