SOURCES: Robert Glatter, M.D., emergency physician, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; New York Times, June 8, 2015
TUESDAY, June 9, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. health authorities are trying to find anyone who may have had contact with a woman who has been diagnosed with a highly drug-resistant form of tuberculosis.
The woman flew from India to Chicago in April. She then traveled to Missouri and Tennessee before returning to Chicago, where she sought treatment at a hospital about seven weeks after arriving in the United States, The New York Times reported late Monday.
At the hospital, the woman was diagnosed with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB). On Friday, she was transferred by special air and ground ambulances to a U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) hospital in Bethesda, Md.
The woman is in an isolation room and the hospital "is providing care and treatment for the patient in connection with an existing NIH clinical protocol for treating TB, including XDR forms," the NIH said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is trying to obtain a list of passengers who were on the same flight as the woman, and is also working with Illinois health officials to identify other people who may have had contact with the woman to determine if they require TB tests, The Times reported.
The risk to the public is low, the CDC said.
One U.S. expert agreed, noting that drug-resistant TB is not spread any more easily than other types of TB.
"Factors that determine the spread of bacteria that cause TB depend on the number and density of persons in any given place," said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "Spending long periods of time with an infected person also increases the risk of transmission... [and] overcrowded conditions found in prisons, hospitals, as well as spaces with inadequate ventilation, raise risk for transmission."
Glatter noted that people with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV or AIDS, are especially vulnerable to TB infection.
"One way we can reduce chances for spread of TB is by properly isolating and rapidly treating patients who are infectious," Glatter said. "Patients with TB need to follow proper cough hygiene, covering their mouths with a tissue or using a surgical mask in poorly ventilated areas."
XDR-TB is rare in the United States, with only 63 reported cases between 1993 and 2011, according to The Times. Drug-resistant types of TB are more common in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on tuberculosis.