News

Woman with drug-resistant TB at Stanford

Sunnyvale woman flew into SFO while infectious, officials say

A 30-year-old Sunnyvale woman is in isolation at Stanford Hospital with an active case of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

She was infectious when she flew into San Francisco International Airport around Dec. 13, returning from her travels abroad and also when she sat in the waiting room of the Emergency Department at Stanford Hospital several days later, Santa Clara County Health Officer Marty Fenstersheib said.

The woman flew from New Delhi to Chicago, and 44 people sitting near her have been contacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Fenstersheib said Thursday. The 44 people were found in 16 states and will be followed by local health authorities, he said.

He said he does not know where she acquired tuberculosis (TB), but she had been receiving treatment abroad, Fenstersheib said.

Officials have also contacted the "very small" number of people in the emergency room and they are being offered tests and treatment if necessary, hospital spokeswoman Shelley Hebert said.

But, she emphasized that only a few people were exposed.

"If people were treated at the emergency room recently and have not been contacted, they have not been exposed," Hebert said. "It's important to know that this patient's condition is not dangerous to the public."

Fenstersheib said the woman was not feeling well enough to go anywhere else after she returned home.

TB is a bacterial infection that attacks the respiratory system. Victims cough violently, sometimes coughing up blood, and have chest pain, fever, chills and weight loss. TB is spread through fluid by sneezing, coughing or talking.

According to World Health Organization guidelines, travelers only need to be notified if they are on a flight longer than eight hours with someone who has active TB.

TB is only contagious if the individual has active symptoms. Many people worldwide carry the bacteria in their bodies but are not contagious, a condition known as "latent" TB. Fenstersheib said the disease has a 10-week incubation period, so those infected won't know for sure until February or March if they have the disease.

Multidrug-resistant TB is a form of the bacteria that is no longer incapacitated by some antibiotics.

It can still be treated, however, Fenstersheib said.

"Treatment may take a lot longer, and the drugs may have some additional side effects," he said.

Someone who is otherwise healthy is likely to survive, he said.

The woman is being kept in a single-bed room and all health care workers are using protective equipment, county Public Health Department spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said. She cannot have any visitors.

Hebert said she is receiving treatment and will be kept in the hospital until it is safe to release her, which could take until mid-January.

Santa Clara County had two cases of multidrug-resistant TB within the last year, although neither person traveled abroad, Fenstersheib said.

If necessary, CDC spokeswoman Shelly Biaz said officials can place an infected person on a "do not-fly" list to prevent them from leaving the country.

She said cases of multidrug-resistant TB rates are holding steady at 1 percent of the approximately 14,000 annual cases in the U.S.

An even deadlier form the disease, extremely drug resistant TB, has emerged also, she said.

The woman had been diagnosed with the disease before returning to the United States and was taking drugs for it, Fenstersheib has said.

If someone develops active TB abroad, they should seek local medical attention, although no laws prevent them from flying home, he said.

"We really don't want people traveling with infectious TB," Fenstersheib said.

Comments

Posted by pabc, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 27, 2007 at 5:16 pm

Another example of how people only think of themselves and do not care about others


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Dec 27, 2007 at 5:26 pm

We need to create civil code that results in substantial fines AND jail time for people who so wantonly disregard the health of others, for their own convenience. I hope she recovers, and that if she traveled intentionally knowing she had active TB, that someone publishes her name, so that she receives her due of public retribution and shame. There is simply no excuse for this. One can only imagine the psychological pain this will cause to those she knowingly exposed (if that turns out to be the case)? The IHO needs to change its rules; they're as liable as any person who intentionally exposes others to drug-resistant TB, or other disease.


Posted by Marie, a resident of Portola Valley
on Dec 28, 2007 at 11:08 pm

I think she should face significant penalties, including jail time, for willfully exposing others to a potentially deadly disease. If it could be proven she infected someone who later dies, what would the criminal charge be?

And why is her name being kept secret? She should be exposed to the public, just as she exposed the public to risk.

Because I was exposed to TB by an illegal immigrant, I have to face the rest of my life with the worry that I a greater likelihood that I could get this terrible disease. Every cough, every bit of fever, is a source of anxiety.


Posted by Marie, a resident of Portola Valley
on Dec 28, 2007 at 11:08 pm

I think she should face significant penalties, including jail time, for willfully exposing others to a potentially deadly disease. If it could be proven she infected someone who later dies, what would the criminal charge be?

And why is her name being kept secret? She should be exposed to the public, just as she exposed the public to risk.

Because I was exposed to TB by an illegal immigrant, I have to face the rest of my life with the worry that I a greater likelihood that I could get this terrible disease. Every cough, every bit of fever, is a source of anxiety.


Posted by joe, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 30, 2007 at 3:06 pm

Marie, you do not see to have gotten good medical advice. You certainly do not have to spend the rest of your life worrying about this.


Posted by joyce, a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 30, 2007 at 3:10 pm

Well, let's spare a small thought for the ill person. How many of us would want to be treated in a third world country for a serious disease, when the chance of spreading it to anyone on a flight is tiny. What there needs to be is a way to get these people home without exposing the general public. If I remember correctly, the CDC was about to arrange a charter flight of some sort for the original guy.



If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

The dress code
By Jessica T | 26 comments | 2,073 views

September food and drink goings on
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 1,449 views

Two Days to Save This Dog?
By Cathy Kirkman | 15 comments | 1,278 views

It Depends... Disguising Real Characters in Fiction
By Nick Taylor | 0 comments | 420 views

Twenty-five years of wedded bliss
By Sally Torbey | 0 comments | 112 views