140 UW Medical Center, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance patients warned of possible TB exposure

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A healthcare worker with University of Washington Medical Center and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance was diagnosed with an active case of tuberculosis, possibly exposing 140 cancer patients to the infectious disease, according to a Seattle Times report.

The exposure happened between February and July of this year. The organizations are offering free tests to the potentially affected patients. Forty-seven staff members have already been tested, with no positive results, according to the report.

The worker originally contracted TB five years ago while working at another hospital, and was treated after developing a latent infection. However, that treatment failed, and the worker developed active TB, which wasn't diagnosed until July — leaving patients exposed to an active TB infection for more than two months.

However, officials believe the risk of the worker passing on an infection is low, according to the Seattle Times. The worker is now being treated, and the TB strain does not appear to be resistant to drugs.

TB is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacterium and spreads through the air. Only people with an active TB infection can spread the disease. Usually, treating a latent TB infection will prevent the development of active TB, according to the CDC.

UW Medicine and SCCA set up a call line at 1-855-520-8600 for concerned patients, caregivers and staff.

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