Eighty-seven babies are being tested for tuberculosis after a nurse at Toronto's Scarborough General Hospital tested positive for the disease.
Late last week, the hospital issued a release advising that 87 babies may have been exposed to the contagious disease. The newborns at risk are those who were in the hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit between April 1 and July 18.
Dr. Reena Lovinsky, an infection prevention expert at the hospital, was quoted by CTV News as saying, "Although TB cases are on the rise in Toronto, they are extremely rare for newborns."
Dr. Peter Azzopardi, chief of pediatrics at Scarborough General, was quoted by CBC as saying, "There is a minimum or minuscule risk of the babies catching tuberculosis. The problems with babies and tuberculosis is that their illness could not be very specific and could rapidly escalate."
Azzopardi told CityTV, "If any of these infants do test positive, be assured the hospital will provide immediate treatment and extensive follow-up care."
Toronto Public Health has notified the parents of the 87 newborns and advised them to bring their babies back to Scarborough General for tests. The testing consists of skin tests and a chest X-ray. The infants will also be given isoniazid, an oral medication, solely as a preventive measure.
According to Toronto Public Health, there are between 350 and 400 new cases of TB every year in the city and the disease can be more serious in children than in adults. Young people are more likely to develop the disease soon after infection and are more likely to develop more serious forms of TB.
Tuberculosis is contracted by TB germs transmitted through the air. Although the disease usually affects the lungs, it can also affect lymph nodes, kidneys, and the spine.
It is unknown how the nurse contracted tuberculosis. To date, none of the newborns have been found to have the disease.