Five babies in Texas test positive for TB after possible mass exposure

Five babies in Texas test positive for TB after possible mass exposure

AUSTIN Texas (Reuters) - Five babies have tested positive for tuberculosis infection in El Paso after being at a hospital where hundreds of newborns may have been exposed to TB by a diseased worker at the facility, health officials said on Saturday.

The El Paso Department of Public Health also increased the number of people who may have been exposed to 858. It had said earlier this month that 706 babies and 43 employees were possibly exposed to the infected worker between September 2013 and August 2014.

"It is important to point out that they (the babies) are not considered to have active TB disease," it said of the five who tested positive for the potentially deadly respiratory disease.

The employee, working in a nursery at Providence Memorial Hospital in El Paso, interacted with patients for months before being diagnosed with the disease, the department said.

Health and hospital officials were working to contact the affected families and would provide screening and follow-up care free of charge.

Tuberculosis, a potentially fatal disease that generally affects the lungs, can lay dormant in a person's body for months or years and is spread when person with an active case coughs, sneezes, or speaks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Dan Grebler)