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Public Health Department investigating possible tuberculosis exposure at Valley hospital

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (FOX 10) - The Maricopa County Public Health Department is investigating a possible tuberculosis exposure at Honor Health Scottsdale Shea Hospital. Newborn intensive care unit babies are among those who may have been exposed to the disease.

A mother of a 2-month-old baby who was born at this hospital in January was just informed that her 3-month-old daughter may have been exposed to TB while the baby was in the NICU. County health officials would not specify how many people may have been exposed, but everyone who might be affected has already been contacted.

Brooklyn was born premature and spent four weeks in the NICU at Honor Health Scottsdale Shea Hospital.

"We were just overwhelmed," said Victoria Malley, whose daughter may have been exposed to TB. "We thought the storm was over, but it's here knocking on the door again. So we aren't really sure what to expect."

Maricopa County Health Officials say they issued a warning out of an abundance of caution after someone at the hospital became sick with a cough and respiratory illness. Officials are waiting for test results to confirm if it is tuberculosis - a serious, infectious disease that is spread through the air.

Health officials would not say how many people have been exposed. But babies under six-months-old are extremely vulnerable.

"They don't necessarily have the immune system to respond," said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for disease control at the Maricopa County Public Health Department. "[It's] one of the reasons why they're recommended to get preventative therapy in some cases."

Brooklyn was immediately tested for TB and doctors also took X-rays of her lungs.

"That would've [shown] us if she had active TB," Malley said. "That came negative, so that's good."

"Once you're exposed to tuberculosis, you don't necessarily develop TB at all," Dr. Sunenshine said. "And if you do, more than likely you'll get something called latent, [which is a] non-infectious form of TB.

County health officials stress that this is a possible case. Someone in the hospital has a respiratory disease that could be tuberculosis - the test results take several weeks.