Patients at Three Chicago Hospitals Exposed to TB by Physician


A Northwestern University pediatric resident has potentially exposed patients at three Chicago hospitals to tuberculosis (TB). This is extremely rare as health-care workers are screened each year for the disease. This young 26-year-old female pediatric resident must have contracted her own case of TB between screenings.

It is reported that she was admitted to Northwestern Memorial on April 3 and kept in isolation until her diagnosis was confirmed. She has since been discharged on treatment.

The three hospitals where she worked as a pediatric resident on rotations are Northwestern, Children's Memorial and Evanston. It is believed that the risk to patients is "minimal" from the resident. However, hospitals are continuing to notify patients Friday who may have been exposed to the resident over the past 10 months.

Tuberculosis is a bacterial disease that usually affects the lungs but can also affect the brain, kidneys, spine and other body parts. The disease, which can be fatal if left untreated, remains common in many developing countries and is still found in the United States.

Symptoms of "active" TB include coughing, night sweats, fever, chills and weight loss. When the disease is in the lungs, the symptoms may also include coughing, chest pain, and the coughing up of blood.


People with TB disease are most likely to spread the germs to people they spend time with every day, such as family members or coworkers. This is why the health department is asking the potentially exposed students to be screened.

Screening for TB is most commonly done using a skin test. This involves the injection of a small amount of fluid (called tuberculin) into the skin in the lower part of the arm. A person given the tuberculin skin test must return within 48 to 72 hours to have a trained health care worker look for a reaction on the arm.

When the skin test is “positive” it only tells physicians and medical personnel that the person has been infected with TB germs. It does not tell whether or not the person has progressed to TB disease. Other tests, such as a chest x-ray and a sample of sputum, are needed to see whether the person actually has Tuberculosis disease.

TB disease can be treated by taking several drugs for 6 to 12 months. It is very important that people who have TB disease finish the medicine, and take the drugs exactly as prescribed.

There were 12,898 cases of TB reported in the U.S. in 2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 214 cases were diagnosed in Chicago.

See also:
New Case: Tuberculosis Continues to be a Problem

Chicago Tribune
Center for Disease Control and Prevention