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Gwinnett Med Center warns patients potentially exposed to TB

7:40 PM, Jun 18, 2013   |    comments
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(AP file photo)

DULUTH, Ga. -- The Chief Medical Officer at Gwinnett Medical Center says the hospital has sent 133 certified letters to patients at risk of contracting tuberculosis, after coming into contact with an infected employee.

The employee, now on medical leave and in isolation, is expected to recover.  The hospital won't say what type of work the employee performed, but it is believed the person became contagious in May.

The hospital has traced the employees patients back to February to alert them of the concern and is offering free skin tests to determine the impact.

Other employees at the hospital have been tested and the hospital says so far, the results have come back negative.

The hospital says the risk of infection is small, but because this is a contagious disease that's easy to treat when caught early, they want those who came into close contact with the employee to come in for a test.

"In probably 90% of the cases there are no or mild symptoms with that initial exposure and infection," said Dr. Alan Bier.

TB can then remain dormant for years. It's only contagious when active, spread by breathing in someone's saliva, as they talk or cough.

"In gwinnett county we do have a high rate of TB.  We rate higher than the state of Georgia, we rate higher than the national average. So there is a risk," said Karen Shields, a spokeswoman for the county's Public Health Department.

In 2011, out of 347 total cases, Clayton had 9 cases reported, Cobb 16.  The counts were higher in Fulton county with 45 reported cases.  There were 48 in Gwinnett and 76 cases in Dekalb county.

"You get cough, prolonged coughing, you get very tired, you can lose weight," said Dr. Rose-Marie Sales with the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Other symptoms include fever, night sweats, chest pain and coughing blood.

In 2012, of nearly 400 TB cases reported in the state, only 8 were health care workers. Gwinnett Medical Center says it tests all of its employees every year as a precaution.

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