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Hundreds may have been exposed to TB at Detroit hospitals

Administering a tuberculosis skin test.
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TB skin test

A Detroit health care worker may have inadvertently exposed 560 people to tuberculosis.

TB is a highly contagious but treatable disease that often infects the lungs.

The Michigan Department of Community Health says the infected worker came into contact with 560 patients who had dental work performed between August and December of 2013 at four Detroit hospitals: Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford, St. John's, and University of Detroit Mercy Dentistry School.

The situation came to light after the worker developed symptoms and got tested.

Community Health spokeswoman Angela Minicuci says letters have been sent to all the people potentially exposed.  Phone calls have also been made, and hospitals are scheduling tests on the patients now.

She says it's too soon to know if anyone was infected by the worker, who is being treated and is recovering from the illness.

The department will conduct an investigation to try to find out who infected the worker.

Health care workers must get an annual TB test. Minicuci says the worker's previous TB exams had been negative.

TB can be an infection – which means the bacteria is in a person's body but hasn't yet made them sick – or a full-blown disease.

Both conditions are treatable.  There are drug-resistant forms of TB in countries like Russia, but the form of TB in this situation responds to mainstream medications.

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