53 patients, 107 staff members exposed to tuberculosis at Auburn hospital

AUBURN, Wash. -- The chief medical officer at MultiCare Auburn Medical Center says 53 patients and 107 staff members have been notified of their exposure to tuberculosis.

Dr. Arun Mathews says an employee who worked in the Family Birth Center tested positive for the disease and exposed the patients. King County Public Health has determined that the exposure period was from April 22, 2019 - Sept. 30, 2019.

Although the likelihood of transmission to patients and employees is low, the hospital will provide free testing and follow-ups to 27 adult patients and 26 babies.

"Although the situation is serious, it is of critical importance that the community understand that this will impact only a select group of patients," the hospital said in the announcement. "The situation is troubling to us but we are committed to ensuring TB testing and care for those who need it."

Patients who don't receive a letter from the hospital this week will not need to be tested.

"We are sorry," Mathews told reporters during a Wednesday morning press conference. "We’re sorry this happened, despite the fact our employee did everything correctly, followed all our procedures and process."

Other people who had brief exposure to the employee during the five-month window do not need to be tested because their exposure was very limited, Mathews said.

"We do not believe it happened here at the hospital," said Mathews. "We’re working with the county to develop a further understanding of that but at this time we have no evidence to suggest it happened at this hospital."

Treating the disease includes a course of antibiotics which can last from six to nine months.

"Without treatment, one in ten with latent TB will go on to develop active TB in their lifetime," added Mathews.

More information released by the hospital can be found here.