Parents, babies tested for TB at SF Kaiser

August 27, 2008 6:31:54 PM PDT
A nurse with active tuberculosis in the Kaiser San Francisco maternity ward triggered a massive scramble to test nearly 1,000 babies, plus their mothers and other family members.

The California Department of Public Health has launched an investigation. They're required to do so by law. One of those officials said he would characterize the risk to mothers and babies as low, but they'll soon find out for themselves.

Call it the stroller brigade. Just hours after being notified that they and their babies may have been exposed to tuberculosis, worried parents came to San Francisco's Kaiser Hospital for testing, including Cynthia Taylor and her twin sons.

"I was shocked like no this can't be happening, this can't be true and made them an appointment as soon as possible," said Cynthia Taylor, a parent.

The hospital discovered last week that a maternity ward nurse working the night shift between early march and August 10th had active tuberculosis. It wasn't until yesterday that parents were notified.

"It took some time to mobilize our ability to contact people in the best way. To communicate among ourselves, make sure we have a way to cover every single person who may be at risk," said Dr. Robert Mithune from Kaiser Hospital.

"We just felt like it was good Kaiser stepped forward and proactively addressed the concern which seems pretty minimal," said Harper Lindstrom, a parent.

The hospital says the risk of exposure is very low, but as a precaution anyone who could have had contact, including 960 babies and their parents need to be notified. More than 80 percent of those on the list have been called.

"My doctor called me which I think made it more reassuring that she personally called to tell us what happened," said Manal Elkarra, a parent.

Kaiser doctors worked overtime and volunteered to handle the crowd including Laura Belloumini and her three-month-old daughter Stella.

"Anybody who spent the night at the hospital while the baby was in the hospital has to be here, so lots of parents, plus grandparents, and husbands, so there's a lot of people up there, but they are handling it pretty well," said Belloumini.

Some of the patients received skin tests and chest x-rays. All had medical exams. The level of concern is high anytime you talk about babies.

"Because they're immune systems are brand new and actually inadequate so if they do get infected with TB, they can end up with very bad forms of tuberculosis," said Masae Kawamura MD, from the San Francisco Public Health Department.

Kaiser Hospital's clinic on Geary Boulevard is open until 7 p.m. on Wednesday night. All of the parents and babies who were tested on Wednesday will have to come back in two days to get their results.


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