8 El Paso infants test positive for TB

Robert Resendes
Robert Resendes | The City of El Paso

Of the more than 800 babies who may have been exposed to tuberculosis (TB) by a nurse's assistant at El Paso's Providence Memorial Hospital, eight have tested positive for TB, health care officials announced on Sunday.

El Paso Public Health Director Robert Resendes said that of the eight infants who tested positive, five had already been vaccinated against TB and their results may be considered false positives.

From Sept. 1, 2013, to Aug. 16 at least 40 hospital workers and as many as 860 infants who passed through the hospital's nursery were exposed to the infected nurse's assistant. The worker reported TB-like symptoms in July, but was allowed to continue working until Aug. 25, when she tested positive for TB.

Health care officials have refused to say how the nurse's assistant contacted the disease, citing patient privacy, Digital Journal reports.

Carrie Williams, of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said the bacteria that causes TB can lay dormant in humans for years before turning into an active case of the disease.

"This is an incredibly large exposure investigation and it involves infants, so it is particularly sensitive,” Williams said, according to Digital Journal. “Babies are more likely than older children and adults to develop life-threatening forms of TB."

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