St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital began notifying parents on Wednesday that a maternity ward worker tested positive for tuberculosis.

Hundreds of newborn babies at a Manhattan hospital may have been exposed to tuberculosis, thanks to a maternity ward worker who tested positive for the contagious and potentially deadly disease.

St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital began notifying parents on Wednesday and alerted the city Health Department immediately after the test results came in.

“We want to asasure everyone that we are taking swift and comprehensive steps to address the situation,” the hospital said in a statement. “If you were recently a patient at Roosevelt Hospital and are not notified within the next few days, then you were not in contact with the infected staff member.”

The hospital did not identify the worker.

“This employee previously had been tested for TB, and the employee’s health survey suggested no problems,” the statement said.Nor did the hospital reveal for how far back the exposure goes. But the parents who contacted NBC 4 New York with the TB tip said their children were born more than two months ago.

Hospital officials tried to reassure nervous parents.

“Few individuals exposed to someone with TB become infected because infection generally occurs after continuous exposure over several hours,” their statement said. “Still, we are taking the extraordinary precautions that we have to address this issue.”

Parents who want their babies tested for TB should contact the hospital. If they choose to have them tested by their private doctors, the hospital will reimburse them “for those expenses not covered by insurance.”

“We also notified all hospital workers that may have been in contact with the infected staff member and are providing appropriate evaluation, testing and follow-up,” the statement said.

Tuberculosis is an airborne bacterial infection that mostly affects the lungs and is curable if detected and treated. Before the development of TB drugs, it was a remorseless killer that claimed millions of lives for centuries.

But new TB strains that have become increasingly resistant to drugs infect about a third of the world’s population and kill nearly two million people a year, according to the World Health Organization.

And TB is not just a Third World problem.

Culled from New York Daily News

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