The discovery of a doctor at three Chicago-area hospitals who is positive for tuberculosis has public health experts scrambling.
The resident had rotated through Children’s Memorial, Northwestern Memorial and Evanston Hospital. So far tests on her close friends show no signs of illness, but what about patients in the hospitals where she worked?
The Chicago Department of Public Health has set up phone lines for patients and their families to call. About 100 children and their families who had contact with the resident were contacted by the hospital and so far six children and one parent have been tested.
Children have a less mature immune system so are more susceptible as are children who are immunocompromised.
And the department is considering how to test medical personnel for TB. The skin test she had after working at an HIV clinic in Africa in 2007 did not show up positive, which is not unusual for a new adult case of TB.
There is also speculation she might have picked up TB in a U.S. hospital. Chicago areas hospitals had 214 new cases last year, which is a record low.
Eventually the TB strain will show a fingerprint which should tell researchers where it came from. Waiting to be tested is more likely to yield a definitive result.
Tuberculosis is an airborne infectious disease that usually attacks the lungs. Laughing, sneezing even talking can spread the germs through the air. Repeated contact is required for infection.
Symptoms include a persistent cough, constant fatigue, weight loss, a loss of appetite, fever, coughing up blood and night sweats, according to the American Lung Association.
In July 2007, Atlanta attorney Andrew Speaker prompted a public health scare when he boarded a flight with a drug-resistant form of TB. He had been urged not to travel.
Drug resistance evolves from the failure to complete an antibiotic treatment regimen.
Another version of TB, extremely drug resistant or XDR, is a growing health concern for the World Health Organization.
Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis or MDR-TB takes longer to treat and has more side-effects. There are an estimated 500,000 cases out of the total of 9.3 million cases of TB worldwide.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has issued a grant of $33 million to help China introduce ways to innovate TB control. #