Three area hospital workers infected with tuberculosis; risk of transmission low, officials say

RIVERSIDE – Risk of transmission is low for the more than 2,000 people notified of possible exposure to tuberculosis after a single staff member at Parkview Community Hospital and two staffers at Hemet Valley Medical Center were diagnosed with the illness, the Riverside County Department of Public Health said.

“The risk of transmission is low, but TB can still be a serious illness,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county’s public health officer. “If you receive notification you may have been exposed, getting tested promptly will ensure any risk you have is dealt with quickly.”

To date just over 1,200 notices have been sent to employees and patients from Parkview, while 900 notices were sent to staff and patients from Hemet Valley, all of whom have been informed of possible exposure and the need for a screening to determine whether they contracted the respiratory illness.

Those who do not receive a notification are not considered at risk for TB exposure, an agency statement said.

TB screening begins with a quick skin test. If it comes up positive, the patient is given a chest X-ray to confirm infection. TB is a bacterial infection that is treated with antibiotics.  It is spread typically through close contact with someone with the infection who is coughing or sneezing. People cannot be infected through hand-shaking, kissing or handling bedding and toilet seats, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to Hemet Valley Medical Center CEO Dan McLaughlin, the County was notified as soon as they knew staff had been diagnosed.

 “Protocol was followed immediately and we’re looking out first for the well-being of our patients,” McLaughlin said. “All of our staff, including contracted staff are tested annually for TB so the two staffers affected were exposed since their last Tuberculin PPD, or skin test, perhaps due to international travel.”

The three infected parties were not publicly identified and officials declined to state in what capacities they were working. According to the department of public health, there is no indication the three cases are related.

Health officials noted that some people can be infected with TB without manifesting symptoms, which include fever, coughing, night sweats and chest pain. Those with inactive TB are generally not infectious.

According to the CDC, millions of people in the United States have latent TB infection and people who have a higher chance of getting TB disease once infected if:

You have HIV infection.

You are a child younger than 5 years of age.

You have recently been infected with TB bacteria in the last two years.

You have other health problems that make it hard for your body to fight disease.

You smoke cigarettes or abuse alcohol and/or drugs.

You were not treated correctly for latent TB infection or TB disease in the past.

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