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59 test positive for TB after Las Vegas outbreak

Updated Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 | 4:05 p.m.

A total of 59 people have tested positive for tuberculosis since the disease killed a woman and at least one of her children who had been at a Las Vegas hospital this summer.

According to a report issued today by the Southern Nevada Health District, out of 977 people tested, 59 were positive for a latent tuberculosis infection, meaning they are not considered contagious.

Dr. Joe Iser, chief medical officer at the Health District, officials cannot know for sure that all 59 cases are directly linked to the Las Vegas hospital.

Several of those tested are immigrants from countries where tuberculosis is more prevalent, and could have been exposed earlier in their lives, he said.

A state report released last month found that Summerlin Hospital Medical Center failed to recognize and take precautions to diagnose the infected woman’s contagious lung disease when she gave birth in May to premature twin daughters, and allowed the woman to continue visiting her babies after she was discharged.

In May, Vanessa White, 25, was admitted to an unidentified Clark County hospital, before being transferred to Summerlin Hospital Medical Center, where she gave birth to premature twins, Emma and Abigail.

The woman had been sick before and during the pregnancy and was later transferred to a Southern California hospital before she died. Her autopsy revealed she died from tuberculosis.

Emma White died in June, before tuberculosis was suspected.

Abigail White remained in Summerlin Hospital Medical Center’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. When the hospital learned of the mother’s diagnosis, the baby was moved to isolation. She was subsequently diagnosed with and treated for tuberculosis but died in August.

Initially, the Health District tested more than 200 people — friends and family of the infected patients, hospital staff and others — for tuberculosis. Of those tested in the first phase, 26 were positive for the disease. All but two had the latent form of the disease.

Two of those tested, one family member and one hospital staff member, had active tuberculosis and were treated in isolation.

Once those results came back, the district expanded its investigation. Once it was clear a hospital worker in the neonatal intensive care unit was infected, the district called and mailed letters to the families of 140 infants who were in the Summerlin Hospital Medical Center NICU from May 11 to Aug 8.

None of the infants tested positive for tuberculosis.

“Our initial recommendation not to perform TB testing on infants who resided in the NICU concurrently with the twins was based on two main reasons,” the Dec. 23 Health District report states. “(1) our understanding that transmission of TB from one infant to another infant is extremely rare, and 2) our belief that contact between the mother and infants in the NICU other than her own was minimal.”

“However, when our findings indicated that disease transmission to some hospital staff members did occur within the NICU, we sought further consultation with experts in pediatric TB. Because the risk of TB transmission to infants was low, but greater than was originally presumed, we initiated TB evaluations on NICU infants and their visitors,” the report said.

The family of Vanessa White, Summerlin Medical Staff and some visitors to the hospital during the outbreak have filed lawsuits claiming negligence.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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