As many as 200 infants exposed to TB in Australian hospital

The Liverpool Hospital in the southwest of Sydney, Australia, is screening the families of nearly 200 babies for tuberculosis after a staff member was diagnosed with the disease.  

The neonatal and maternity units, which consist of 140 employees, may also have been exposed to the disease within the last four months. The infected worker is currently on sick leave and is receiving treatment, ABC Sydney reports.

Guy Marks, a doctor from the hospital’s chest clinic, said that the transmission risk is low but that all precautions are being taken.

"There is a test that we do to diagnose tuberculosis infection, but that test is not very reliable in very young babies," Professor Marks said, according to ABC Sydney. "So for that reason we're offering preventative therapy to the babies that may have come into contact with this person."

Professor Marks said that the worker could have been infected a long time ago but may have only recently developed the disease and symptoms.

"In fact, the infection is quite common around the world, with about a third of the world's population infected with the germ that causes tuberculosis," Marks said, according to ABC Sydney.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tuberculosis is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria, which can attack the lungs along with other parts of the body like the kidney, brain and spine. The disease can be fatal if not treated properly.