SAN ANTONIO – Metro Health confirmed Thursday that up to 50 babies were exposed to tuberculosis at North Central Baptist Hospital over Thanksgiving.
Two weeks ago, KSAT reported that a person at the hospital had TB and was taken into isolation for treatment. Until now, no information has been released about who was exposed to the disease.
One mother is worried now that her exposed premature baby will have to go through treatment for the next four months.
The stress of having a baby seven weeks premature was elevated when the San Antonio mother found out her 2-month-old daughter had been exposed to tuberculosis in the hospital.
"The day after New Year's, we got a call that she had been exposed. Even though they're saying their risk is low, it's still scary," said Ashley, who didn't want to share her last name or her baby's name.
She explained that her daughter spent 18 days in the North Central Baptist neonatal intensive care unit. Metro Health confirmed during that time that someone in the hospital had tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is a bacterial disease that affects the lungs.
"Because of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), we cannot identify the person, whether they were a visitor or an employee," said Carol Schliesinger, Metro Health public relations manager.
KSAT discovered the list of people exposed includes a group of adults and fewer than 50 babies. They've all tested negative, but since TB can still develop, the babies will be tested and treated until they're 6 months old.
"An X-ray, a blood test and a skin test. We're thankful they all came back negative, but they are starting her on the antibiotics anyway. Twice a week for the next six weeks at least," Ashley said.
Ashley's daughter went in for her first treatment Wednesday and came away with a prescription for the antibiotic Isoniazid, which is commonly given for preventative treatment of tuberculosis after exposure.
"We're definitely concerned, and we're taking it day by day. We have a list of all the side effects to look for," Ashley said.
Both Metro Health and Baptist Hospital System are providing free care for all the families affected.
The person originally diagnosed with TB is still in isolation undergoing treatment and is responding well. Metro Health said it has identified all the people who have come into contact with that infected person.
Patti Tanner, with Baptist Health System, also released a statement about protocol in hospital NICUs: "All visitors to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit are required to log in by name at each visit. The log includes a questionnaire that assesses the state of the visitor’s health, asking about any signs or symptoms of illness they may be experiencing. This helps NICU staff identify potentially ill visitors, limits access into the NICU and protects the health of our patients."
Schliesinger explained that TB is difficult to contract.
"Tuberculosis can be killed by sunlight if it's in the air, so also the ventilation affects how the disease is transmitted. So a number of factors have to align in order for someone to be exposed," Schliesinger said. "Also, a person has to be exposed to an infectious person for six hours per week for a number of weeks in order for that person to be at risk. So it's not like I'm in an elevator with you and I have active TB and I'm at risk now. That doesn't happen."
The symptoms of TB include a bad cough that lasts three or more weeks, coughing up blood or mucus from deep in the lungs, severe night sweats, fever, fatigue and chills. Those symptoms appear only once someone has become infected. Many people are exposed to tuberculosis and never get sick.