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April 24, 1995

Tuberculosis in Health Care Workers at a Hospital With an Outbreak of Multidrug-Resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Author Affiliations

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga (Drs Jereb, Klevens, Smith, Crawford, Jarvis, and Dooley and Messrs Privett and Davis), and the Department of Medicine, New York Medical College, Valhalla (Dr Sharp).

Arch Intern Med. 1995;155(8):854-859. doi:10.1001/archinte.1995.00430080100012

Objective:  Investigate reports of tuberculosis in health care workers employed at a hospital with an outbreak of multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Design:  Case series of tuberculosis in health care workers, January 1, 1989, through May 31, 1992. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing and restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of M tuberculosis isolates. Longitudinal analysis of cumulative tuberculin skin test surveillance data. Assessment of infection control. The patients consisted of 361 health care workers who had either serial tuberculin skin tests or tuberculosis.

Results:  Six health care workers, the largest number linked to one multidrug-resistant tuberculosis outbreak, had disease due to M tuberculosis that matched the outbreak strain from hospitalized patients. The two who were seropositive for human immunodeficiency virus died, one of tuberculous meningitis and the other of multiple causes including tuberculosis. The estimated risk of a skin test conversion was positively associated with time and increased by a factor of 8.3 (1979 to 1992). In 1992 the annual risk for workers in the lowest exposure occupational group was 2.4%. In comparison, nurses and housekeepers had relative risks of 8.0 (95% confidence interval, 3.2 to 20.3) and 9.4 (95% confidence interval, 2.7 to 32.3), respectively. Laboratory workers had a relative risk of 4.2 (95% confidence interval, 1.1 to 15.5). Tuberculosis admissions increased, but the hospital had inadequate ventilation to isolate tuberculosis patients effectively. There were lapses in infection control practices.

Conclusions:  Health care workers who were exposed during a hospital outbreak of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis had occupationally acquired active disease. The human immunodeficiency virus—infected health care workers with tuberculosis had severe disease and died. The risk of skin test conversion increased during the study period, and higher exposure occupations had elevated risk. Effective infection control is essential to prevent the transmission of tuberculosis to health care workers.(Arch Intern Med. 1995;155:854-859)