Information for families: TB

- April 1, 2019

We recently learned that a staff member from our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) has developed active tuberculosis. As a result, we have notified all families whose babies were in contact with the staff member between January 27, 2019 and February 24, 2019.

We want to reassure you that Sunnybrook’s DAN Women & Babies program is working closely with the hospital’s Infection Prevention and Control team and Toronto Public Health. They have indicated that the risk of infection to babies is low. This is because this illness requires prolonged and direct contact with an individual to be at risk of becoming sick.

The staff member is no longer on the unit, and there is no ongoing risk to any other patients, family members, visitors or staff at Sunnybrook.

Please note that families who are directly impacted by this exposure have been contacted by the team at Sunnybrook. If your baby was not in our NICU during the time period indicated above, they are not at risk for exposure.

Have a question?

Families who are directly impacted by this exposure have been notified by the team at Sunnybrook. If you have further questions or concerns, you can send us an email using the form below.

Members of the media may contact the Communications & Stakeholder Relations department at 416-480-4040.

Questions and answers:

What is tuberculosis, or TB?

Tuberculosis is caused when bacteria are spread from person to person through the air. The condition usually affects the lungs, but it can also affect other parts of the body too. Tuberculosis is treatable with medication that works quickly to cure the condition.

Which staff member has tuberculosis, and how did they contract it?

The identity of the staff member is confidential, as required by the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA). The staff member did all the right things and all the right follow-up as soon as they felt unwell. Toronto Public Health is working to determine how the staff person contracted tuberculosis.

Why did it take so long to notify families and staff, and to arrange follow-up?

The individual was just diagnosed. Once a person is diagnosed, we look back a couple of months to determine if anyone was exposed during the time the person didn’t have any symptoms but may have been infectious. We ensure that we’ve gathered all of the necessary information to evaluate if there is any risk to people who may have been exposed before putting through any testing. We also arrange all of the necessary follow-up for our patients and staff appropriately.

Do parents need to be assessed?

We are only assessing babies, as the risk for parents is extremely low with existing guidelines. Parents, siblings and other family members and friends close to your baby do not need follow-up. This was a situation with a low risk of transmission (meaning it is not easily spread). We are following up with babies as they are more vulnerable, and we want to take every precaution in order to protect them.

Are NICU staff members at risk?

Very few staff members spent more than 60 hours working in close proximity to this individual, which is the threshold for follow-up assessment and testing in this case. The chances of tuberculosis being spread to staff is very low, but we have followed up with those staff members to make sure they do not develop symptoms of this infection.

Is there any ongoing risk in the NICU?

There is no ongoing risk in the unit. Only those babies with prolonged contact from January 27, 2019 to February 24, 2019 are affected. We have contacted those families directly.