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700 Texan Infants at risk of Tuberculosis: Tests are Underway

Update Date: Sep 23, 2014 09:47 AM EDT

Health officials from West Texas have reportedly started testing newborns for tuberculosis (TB). According to the officials, more than 700 infants might have been exposed to the bacterial infection after a health care worker from El Paso hospital tested positive for TB.

The officials believe that the infants were exposed during their stay at the nursery in the Providence Memorial Hospital of El Paso. They added that around 40 health care workers could have been exposed as well. The time of exposure was between September 2013 and August, 25 2014.

 "We took the date of first signs and symptoms [of the health care worker] and went back three months to determine who is considered 'exposed,'" Armando Saldivar, spokesman for the El Paso Department of Public Health, said according to FOX News.

The unidentified female health care worker had signs of TB around December of last year. However, the worker was not tested by the hospital until August 21. The officials could not explain the lapse in time. They are now investigating how and when the worker got infected. Parents of the potentially exposed infants expressed their thoughts to ABC News:

"I'm not too happy about the fact where it's been over a year and it's just now being brought to the attention of everybody," Brittany Ochoh said.

"The fact that he was just minutes old and we were not able to protect him. ... There is nothing I can do at this point except pray," Jessica Martinez added. "You always think it could never happen to me and then it does."

TB is an infection that usually attacks the lungs. In some cases, the bacteria can also affect other parts of the body, such as the kidney and brain. The disease is highly contagious and can be spread via coughs and sneezes. The bacteria can also remain dormant for years before they start attacking the body. If left untreated, the infection can be fatal.

No other health care worker at the hospital has tested positive for TB so far. The hospital officials did not provide the number of infants that have been tested already.

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