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Sanford doctor practicing in Fargo diagnosed with tuberculosis

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Sanford Health is notifying 77 patients and 43 employees that they may have been exposed to tuberculosis after a Fargo doctor was recently diagnosed with an active form of the disease, the hospital announced Friday.


Sanford is contacting the employees and making personal phone calls to all patients who may have been exposed.

Citing federal privacy rules, hospital officials would not disclose the identity of the doctor, or any information that may indicate who the person is.

Dennis Millirons, president of Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, said Friday that the doctor worked in Fargo.

Illness chance 'small'

"This is not a reason to panic," Millirons said, stressing that hospital officials believe chances are remote that anyone who may have been exposed will become ill.

"It is expected that there is a very, very small chance that any of them will contract the disease from this individual," Millirons said. "But we take no chances, and we will do our best to see that it doesn't happen."

Sanford Health says the patients and employees may have been exposed to tuberculosis from July 1 to Aug. 16.

Sanford will offer evaluations and testing to the individuals free of charge, and patient and employee testing will continue as needed.

Tuberculosis is an airborne disease, which means it is spread through the air from one person to another, according to information provided by Sanford.

Someone can only become infected by breathing in TB germs, not from someone's clothes, drinking glass, eating utensils, a handshake or other surfaces, according to Sanford.

"Only a very small percentage of people - patients or employees working with this person - may be expected to contract this disease because we do not believe this person was very infectious at the time this person even had active disease," Millirons said.

Annual testing

Every Sanford employee is checked for the presence of TB once a year using a skin test, Millirons said.

Anyone who tests positive is given antibiotics to prevent an active case from developing.

"There is no vaccination for TB," Millirons said. "The way we control TB is by doing skin testing and treating those who react to the skin test with preventive antibiotics."

Millirons said the doctor's TB came to light when symptoms began to show.

Millirons said Sanford learned of the doctor's condition this past week, but he would not specify what day.

The doctor involved was treated at Sanford and has been discharged from the hospital, Millirons said.

"This person will recover from this. The antibiotic used to treat it is very effective," he said

The hospital is partnering with the North Dakota Department of Health to ensure the safety of patients, employees and the public, Sanford officials said.

According to the Mayo Clinic:

Most people who become infected with the bacteria that cause tuberculosis don't develop symptoms of the disease.

The disease, however, remains a major cause of illness and death worldwide, especially in Africa and Asia.

Most cases of tuberculosis can be cured by taking a combination of medications for several months or longer.

Although tuberculosis is contagious, it's not especially easy to catch. The Mayo Clinic states people are more likely to get tuberculosis from a family member or close co-worker than from a stranger.

Most people with active TB who've had appropriate drug treatment for at least two weeks are no longer contagious, according to the Mayo Clinic.



# Tuberculosis is a potentially serious infection that affects the lungs.

# It is spread from person to person through tiny droplets released into the air.

# Most people who become infected with bacteria that causes tuberculosis don't develop symptoms.


When symptoms do appear, they can include:

# Unexplained weight loss

# Fatigue

# Fever

# Night sweats

# Chills

# Loss of appetite

# Coughing that lasts three or more weeks

# Coughing up blood

# Chest pain, or pain with breathing or coughing.


# If tests show someone is infected but not showing symptoms, known as latent TB, a doctor may recommend drug therapy to destroy bacteria that might become active later.

# Active tuberculosis is commonly treated with four medications, isoniazid, rifampin, ethambutol and pyrazinamide.

# In the case of pregnant women, pyrazinamide is not employed because its potential effects on fetuses are not known.

# Patients with active tuberculosis may be hospitalized for the first two weeks of therapy, or until tests show they are no longer contagious.