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New Mexico Babies Exposed To Tuberculosis At El Paso Hospital

Microbe World via Flickr

The New Mexico Health Department is screening babies for tuberculosis in Doña Ana County this week. 

Health Department officials in Texas and New Mexico say as many as 750 newborns might have been exposed to tuberculosis at Providence Memorial Hospital’s nursery unit in El Paso. Over 50 of those babies are thought to live in southern New Mexico.

A Providence employee tested positive for the disease in late August, and hospital officials say the employee could have been in contact with infants in the nursery for as long as a year.

Tuberculosis is a potentially serious bacterial infection that affects the lungs.

The New Mexico Health Department says it has a complete list of infants who were born during the time the infected hospital employee was working in the nursery unit. They say they're confident they’ll be able to identify and treat any cases of tuberculosis early on.

Diana Fortune is the tuberculosis program manager for the New Mexico Department of Health. She says the DOH is not concerned the respiratory illness could spread beyond the newborns they’re investigating.

“The infants that were born at the hospital are the highest priority that we’d be looking to test,” Fortune said. “The parents really wouldn’t have that much risk of being infected.”

Officials haven’t yet confirmed that any infants in New Mexico are infected. The Health Department expects results from the screenings in the next few days.

Anyone who is concerned their baby might have been exposed shouldcontact the New Mexico Health Department for a screening.

Ed Williams came to KUNM in 2014 by way of Carbondale, Colorado, where he worked as a public radio reporter covering environmental issues. Originally from Austin, Texas, Ed has reported on environmental, social justice, immigration and Native American issues in the U.S. and Latin America for the Austin American-Statesman, Z Magazine, NPR’s Latino USA and others. In his spare time, look for Ed riding his mountain bike in the Sandias or sparring on the jiu-jitsu mat.
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