Health experts not taking tuberculosis threat lightly

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Two area hospitals have treated suspected cases of tuberculosis within the past week but no positive TB infections were reported.

The two patients were both prisoners -- one unidentified inmate from Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston, Mo., and Anthony Snyder from Southern Illinois -- and that situation makes them more susceptible to the disease, health officials said.

Cape Girardeau County Coroner Mike Hurst said preliminary tests indicated that Snyder, who was treated at Southeast Missouri Hospital, had tuberculosis but final diagnosis Monday confirmed that was not true.

"We prepare for the worst and hope for the best," Hurst said. "We certainly don't want an outbreak going around."

Charlotte Craig, director for the Cape Girardeau County public health department, said encapsulated communities like prisons, nursing homes and hospitals where people have close contact with one another, are prime breeding grounds for the bacteria. Tuberculosis is spread by bacteria particles that enter the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

The Charleston prisoner, whose name has not been released, is being treated in respiratory isolation at Missouri Delta Medical Center in Sikeston, and the entire inmate population will be tested.

Faith True, infection control coordinator at Southeast hospital, said all workers who treated Snyder, who died Wednesday, wore masks to eliminate any possible exposure.

Tuberculosis can attack any part of the body but is most commonly found in the lungs and chest. Its symptoms include a persistent cough, chest pain, fatigue and coughing up blood.

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