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Providence St. Peter Hospital employee diagnosed with Tuberculosis

FILE PHOTO: Providence St. Peter Hospital, 413 Lilly Road NE in Olympia. photo taken May12, 2015.
FILE PHOTO: Providence St. Peter Hospital, 413 Lilly Road NE in Olympia. photo taken May12, 2015. Staff photographer

An employee at Providence St. Peter Hospital in Olympia has been diagnosed with active tuberculosis, also known as TB.

Providence and Thurston County health officials are assuring the public that the risk of exposure is extremely low for employees as well as patients.

Citing privacy concerns, Providence officials would not disclose the employee’s position or level of interaction with patients at the hospital. The employee’s TB diagnosis was confirmed Thursday, and the source of exposure is under investigation.

The employee’s condition is treatable, according to hospital officials, but no date has been set for the employee to return to work.

“This individual was not with any patients long enough that we would anticipate any of them would develop tuberculosis,” said Dr. Kevin Caserta, chief medical officer at Providence St. Peter Hospital. “We do not believe that any patients are at risk.”

TB is spread from person to person through the air. However, TB infection typically requires prolonged exposure in close quarters of 3 to 6 feet for several hours, said Dr. Rachel Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties.

When an active TB case is reported, Wood said public health officials will test family members or roommates to see if the disease has been spread because these are the people most likely to have prolonged exposure.

“The majority of people who come to the hospital, they are so far out of that circle,” Wood said. But she said anyone who wants to get tested for TB should see their medical provider or local urgent care center.

Most people who are exposed to TB bacteria do not develop an infection or illness. People who do have latent TB are not sick and are not contagious, according to the state Department of Health. About 10 percent of infected people can then develop TB disease, which is the only form of TB that is contagious.

The chance of acquiring TB in the first place is minimal, said Caserta, noting that people have a higher likelihood of developing influenza than TB.

In 2014, Washington state counted 195 cases of TB, and in Thurston County, there were seven cases. Nationwide, there were 9,421 total cases reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control in 2014, representing a rate of 2.96 incidents per 100,000 people.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869,

@andyhobbs

TUBERCULOSIS FACTS

Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that usually attack the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body such as lymph nodes, bones and joints.

Symptoms include fever, night sweats, weight loss, fatigue, a bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer, or coughing up blood or phlegm from deep inside the lungs.

TB is spread from person to person through the air. The best way to avoid spreading TB is to cover the mouth and nose when coughing, and for those infected to finish all their TB medication as prescribed by a doctor.

In 2014, Washington state counted 195 cases of TB, and in Thurston County, there were seven cases. Nationwide, there were 9,421 total cases reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control in 2014, representing a rate of 2.96 incidents per 100,000 people.

Outside the United States, TB is among the leading causes of death. In 2014, about 9.6 million people worldwide became ill with TB, and about 1.5 million died from the disease, according to the World Health Organization.

Sources: Washington State Department of Health; Thurston County Public Health and Social Services; Centers for Disease Control

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