According to the medical information sheet for Aplisol, an aide used in the diagnosis of Tuberculosis, which further compiled research and studies from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the American Review of Tuberculosis, the American Journal of Respiratory Clinical Care Med, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Red Book: 2006 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases, the Mantoux tuberculin skin test can produce false-negative test results in persons with immature immune systems such as infants or weakened immune systems.
This would indicate that the individual may be infected but have little or no reaction to the tuberculin skin test. Infants younger than 6 months old may have false-negative reactions because their immune systems are not fully developed. The test should be repeated when interpretations are ambiguous or inconclusive.
In addition, if the individual has been very recently infected with tuberculosis, then they may not have had time to develop the delayed hypersensitivity reaction, which can take up to 8 to 10 weeks after exposure.
False-negative reactions may also be caused by recent viral immunizations such as rubella, measles, mumps, influenza, or chicken pox. Many infants within the first two years of life are given such vaccinations. False-negative test results may also be caused by recent viral infections. Improper antigen storage, handling, technique in administration or error in reading can also affect a tuberculin skin test result. Lastly, high-dose steroids and other immunosuppressive agents, taken daily for a month or longer, can also result in false-negative results.
October 21 Update – 11 Babies Have Tested Positive
According to the El Paso Times, the total numer of babies who have tested positive for tuberculosis has risen to 11 as of October 21, 2014.
September 27 Update – 5 Babies Have Tested Positive
On Monday, September 22, CNN reported that 706 infants and 43 hospital workers were exposed to tuberculosis bacteria (TB) when a hospital employee reported to work in the nursery and post-partum unit with an active case of TB.
As the story has progressed, the number of exposed infants has continued to rise. On September 27, the Associated Press reported the number to be approximately 850 exposed infants.
According to CNN, the hospital is contacting the infants’ families to inform them how to be tested for the disease. The hospital will perform any follow-up care free of charge.
As of September 27, five of the exposed infants have tested positive for tuberculosis. AP reports that none of the babies have active cases of TB, which is the deadly and infectious kind, and that all five of them will be treated.
Many exposed employees at Providence Memorial Hospital in El Paso, Texas have also been tested for TB. CNN reports that none of the results have come back positive as of yet.
According to the CNN article, Providence Memorial Hospital is now facing citations and possible Medicare / Medicaid funding termination because of their negligence in this matter.
CNN reports that the Texas Department of Health Services investigated and cited the hospital for “deficiencies” in the areas of “infection control, patient rights and governing body” that jeopardized the health and safety of the patients. The article also says that the Center for Medicare Services has given the hospital a deadline of October 11 to make policy changes in order to prevent things like this from happening again—otherwise, the hospital’s funding for Medicare and Medicaid will be revoked.
Active vs. Dormant Tuberculosis
TB bacteria generally lie dormant in a person for many years, during which time the bacteria cannot be spread to others. When the bacteria become active, however, the disease can be spread when the infected person coughs or sneezes. TB is still a difficult disease to catch, but infants are more susceptible to the disease.
When the infected hospital worker reported to their shifts with an active case of TB, he or she exposed everyone around them to the disease. Again, TB is not easily transmitted even when it is active, but everyone who was exposed must still be tested.
Have You Been Exposed to a Disease Due to Hospital Negligence?
Chavez Law Firm—”El Paso’s community safety law firm”—is dedicated to representing individuals who have suffered harm because of negligence. If you or your child has been exposed to an infectious disease such as tuberculosis because of hospital or medical provider negligence, our team is here to help.