Riverside County issues tuberculosis alert

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RANCHO MIRAGE, CA – Riverside County public health officials are urging hundreds of patients and employees at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage to be tested for tuberculosis after three patients were recently diagnosed with the respiratory illness. The Riverside County Department of Public Health announced Thursday that about 500 people may have been exposed, though the three cases are not believed to be related.

“Riverside University Health System-Public Health and the Rancho Mirage-based hospital are notifying the approximately 500 staff members and patients who may have been exposed to the disease and urging them to be tested for TB,” county officials said in a news release Thursday. “Those who test positive will be referred for an X-ray and evaluation for appropriate treatment.”

As for the three patients who have the illness, they are expected to recover, the health department said. It’s not yet known who they contracted TB.

Barbara Cole, director of disease control for Public Health, said there is no cause for alarm despite the three simultaneous cases.

“There are no indications the illness has spread beyond the initial patients, but the testing will provide peace of mind for those who receive the notifications and get tested,” said Cole. “We are working closely with the hospital to keep the community safe.”

The county health department describes TB as follows:

Tuberculosis is a disease spread through the air during prolonged, repeated and close contact with an individual who is infected with active tuberculosis. When left untreated, TB can result in complications that can be serious. TB is not spread by shaking hands, sharing food or drink, or via bed linens or toilet seats.

Symptoms include a productive cough, unexplained weight loss, fever and fatigue. Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick. A person with inactive (latent) TB cannot spread it to others.

Anyone concerned about TB can contact their health care provider or the Public Health Department Disease Control at 951-358-5107. For additional information about tuberculosis, visit www.rivco-diseasecontrol.org