TB outbreak at Omaha daycare prompts public health emergency

The Douglas County Health Department (DCHD) has confirmed an active case of tuberculosis (TB) disease at a local YMCA daycare and is investigating more than 500 possible exposures. The health department will declare a public health emergency due to the potential risk to the population and risk for widespread illness.

What is tuberculosis and how is it transmitted?

Tuberculosis is a serious infectious disease that mainly affects the lungs. It is caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria can spread from person to person through the air when someone with TB disease coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. People who breathe in the bacteria can become infected, but not everyone who is infected will develop TB disease. Some people may have latent TB infection, which means they have the bacteria in their body but do not have any symptoms and cannot spread the disease to others. However, latent TB infection can progress to TB disease if it is not treated with medication.

TB outbreak at Omaha daycare prompts public health emergency
TB outbreak at Omaha daycare prompts public health emergency

What are the symptoms and treatment of TB disease?

The symptoms of TB disease include a cough lasting for weeks, chest pain, coughing up blood or sputum, weakness and fatigue, weight loss, no appetite, chills and fever, and night sweats. TB disease can be fatal if left untreated, but it can be cured with a course of antibiotics that usually lasts for six to nine months. People with TB disease need to take their medication as prescribed and follow the instructions of their health care provider. They also need to isolate themselves from others until they are no longer contagious, which is determined by a series of tests.

What is the situation at the Westview YMCA daycare?

The DCHD said that the TB case was confirmed at the Westview YMCA daycare, located near 156th Street and Summit Plaza. The daycare provides drop-in child care services for children ages six weeks to 12 years old. The health department said that the possible exposures happened from late spring into late October. The health department is working with the YMCA to identify and contact the parents of the children who may have been exposed, as well as the staff members who worked at the daycare. The health department is also planning to host an informational meeting for parents at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Westview YMCA.

What are the next steps for the health department and the public?

The DCHD said that it will declare a public health emergency, which will allow it to access additional resources and funding to respond to the situation. The health department said that it will conduct TB testing for those who had close contact with the patient, which means spending extended time with a contagious person at least once. It does not include brief encounters in common areas like hallways or gyms. The health department said that the testing will be free of charge and will be done at the Westview YMCA or at the health department’s clinic. The health department also urged the public to be aware of the signs and symptoms of TB disease and to seek medical attention if they experience any of them. The health department said that TB is treatable and preventable, and that it is committed to protecting the health and safety of the community.

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