The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has confirmed that while a woman with a rare form of tuberculosis (TB) is currently undergoing treatment, she may have exposed hundreds of people to this treatment-resistant infection. TB is not usually transmitted via casual contact, but this form of extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB has led health officials to issue warnings to anyone who may be at risk.
In April, the unidentified patient traveled from India to the United States through Chicago O’Hare Airport and also spent time in Missouri and Tennessee. She sought treatment for and was diagnosed with active TB seven weeks after arriving in the U.S.; prior to being sent to NIH for treatment, she was isolated in a suburban Chicago hospital. Only 63 cases of XDR-TB have been reported in the U.S. from 1993–2011, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is informing her community contacts and flight passengers on the potential risk.
An NIH spokesperson stated that the patient is in an isolation room in the NIH Clinical Center, which is designed for patients with respiratory infections to control air flow and prevent the spread of pathogens.
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