Tuberculosis diagnosed at three hospitals in the county

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(This story was taken from two Riverside County University Health System press releases.)

Testing is being urged after active tuberculosis was diagnosed at three hospitals in Riverside County.

Riverside County health officials are working with administrators at Hemet Valley Medical Center in Hemet and Parkview Community Hospital in Riverside to determine who may have been exposed to tuberculosis after some hospital employees were diagnosed with an active form of the respiratory illness. And in Rancho Mirage, three Eisenhower Medical Center patients tested positive for tuberculosis, as well. There is no indication yet that the cases are related and officials have not determined how the individuals contracted the illness.

Three employees — two at Hemet Valley and one at Parkview — are undergoing treatment and are expected to recover. The individuals are not being identified. Riverside University Health System-Public Health and the hospitals are notifying more than 2,000 staff members and patients at these two hospitals who may have been exposed to the disease.

About 900 notifications are being sent from Hemet Valley and more than 1,200 from Parkview. Those receiving the notification are being urged to be tested for TB, which can be done through their healthcare provider. Hemet Valley has made special arrangements for free TB testing of individuals seen at its hospital. The dates and times will be included in the notification letters. Those who test positive will be referred for an X-ray and evaluation for appropriate treatment.

Those who do not receive a notification letter are not considered at-risk for TB exposure.

At Eisenhower Medical Center, three patients were diagnosed with an active form of the respiratory illness.  The three Eisenhower patients also are not being identified because of confidentiality rules.

Riverside University Health System-Public Health and the Rancho Mirage-based hospital are notifying the approximately 500 Eisenhower staff members and patients who may have been exposed to the disease and urging them to be tested for TB. As with Hemet Valley and Parkview Community, those who test positive will be referred for an X-ray and evaluation for appropriate treatment.

Barbara Cole, director of disease control for Public Health, said it may be uncommon to have three cases diagnosed at the same time from the same hospital, but emphasized there is no cause for alarm.

“There are no indications the illness has spread beyond the initial patients, but the testing will provide peace of mind for those who receive the notifications and get tested,” said Cole. “We are working closely with the hospital to keep the community safe.”

“The risk of transmission is low, but TB can still be a serious illness,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, public health officer for the county. “If you receive notification you may have been exposed, getting tested promptly will ensure any risk you have is dealt with quickly.”

Tuberculosis is a disease spread through the air during prolonged, repeated and close contact with an individual who is infected with active tuberculosis. When left untreated, TB can result in complications that can be serious. TB is not spread by shaking hands, sharing food or drink, or via bed linens or toilet seats.

Symptoms include a productive cough, unexplained weight loss, fever and fatigue. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. A person with inactive (latent) TB cannot spread it to others.

Anyone concerned about TB can contact their healthcare provider or the Public Health Department Disease Control at 951-358-5107. For more information about tuberculosis, visit www.rivco-diseasecontrol.org.

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