153 infants test healthy after TB scare

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153 infants test healthy after TB scare

In an interim report on the tuberculosis test of 166 newborns at Ewha Womans University Medical Center in Yangcheon District, southwestern Seoul, the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced Friday that all 153 babies who have been examined so far showed negative reaction.

But in a separate checkup examining latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI), one of the 89 babies who were tested so far turned out positive. The health authority said the infant would undergo medical treatment.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), LTBI refers to a state of persistent immune response to stimulation by Mycobacterium tuberculosis antigens without evidence of clinically manifested active tuberculosis. One-third of the world’s population is estimated to have LTBI, and the lifetime risk of it developing to tuberculosis is about 5 to 10 percent.

Of the 50 employees at the hospital who were also subjected to the tuberculosis test, nobody showed a positive reaction. The ministry did not say how many contracted LTBI, but mentioned that they will all go through the test.

Newborns under four weeks old will go through the LTBI test after three months of taking preventive medication.

The recent tuberculosis scare at Ewha Womans University Medical Center was prompted when a 32-year-old nurse there was diagnosed with the infectious disease July 15. She was immediately ordered to stop work and is currently undergoing medical treatment at her home.

Alongside the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Yangcheon District’s public health center, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has installed a situation room at the hospital in order to check whether any of the 166 babies who were hospitalized between April 15 and July 15 were infected by the nurse.

The three-month period was based on the communicable period of tuberculosis.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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