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To find the source of tuberculin skin test conversions among 38 hospital employees on 1 floor during routine testing January–February 2010.
Record review of patients at a private hospital during September-December 2009 and interviews with hospital employees. Names of patients from the state tuberculosis (TB) registry were cross-referenced with hospital records for admissions. Mycobacterium tuberculosis genotype results in the county and adjacent counties were examined, and contacts were evaluated for TB infection and disease.
One of the 38 employees, a nurse, was diagnosed with pulmonary TB with a matching M. tuberculosis genotype and drug resistance pattern (isoniazid monoresistant) to those of a county jail inmate also recently diagnosed with pulmonary TB. The nurse had no known contact with that inmate; however, another inmate in his 20's from the same jail had been hospitalized under that nurse's care in October 2009. That young man died, and a postmortem examination result subsequently confirmed TB, which had not been suspected. Exposure to this man with undiagnosed TB could explain the transmission: 87 (27%) of the 318 hospital-based contacts without previous positive tuberculin skin test results were infected, and 9 contacts had active TB.
This investigation demonstrated M. tuberculosis transmission in a hospital due to a missed diagnosis and nonadherence to national TB infection control guidelines. Routine TB screening of employees allowed early detection of this missed TB diagnosis, facilitating prompt evaluation of contacts. Healthcare providers should suspect TB in symptomatic persons and adhere to TB control policies.