The news that a nurse has tested positive for TB has prompted plans to test and treat all babies who stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit at Scarborough Hospital’s General campus between April 1 and July 18.
Dr. Peter Azzopardi, chief of pediatrics, said the nurse “absolutely followed the protocols of the hospital.” She reported her symptoms to the hospital as soon as she felt ill; however, a preliminary TB test did not detect the disease, and her symptoms were so minimal she continued working. A secondary test, which took about four weeks to process, confirmed the TB infection on July 18, and the nurse immediately stopped work to be treated.
The nurse had such a low level of infection that “her chances of infecting anyone are extremely low,” Azzopardi said. TB specialists said there is no risk to adults, and the hospital does not expect to see any positive tests among the infants.
But because newborns are among the most vulnerable to the disease, the hospital is taking “every possible precaution.” The babies involved will receive skin tests and chest X-rays. Whether the results are positive or negative, the infants will receive eight to 10 weeks of antibiotics, and they will undergo skin testing again at six months and one year.
Health care workers are screened for TB when they are hired. According to the Ontario Hospital Association’s guidelines, additional TB testing generally is not required unless the initial test was positive, the worker shows symptoms or has been exposed to a patient with active disease, or there is a reason to suspect exposure.
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