Tuberculosis confirmed in July at Van Buren nursing home

Posted Aug. 23, 2013, at 2:08 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 23, 2013, at 4:22 p.m.

VAN BUREN, Maine — Maine’s top epidemiologist confirmed Friday that medical personnel with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention were in Van Buren earlier this summer after a nursing home resident there tested positive for tuberculosis.

In addition to the one active case, Borderview Manor administrator Robert Poiesz on Friday said a dozen staff and residents also have tested positive for exposure to the disease since the initial diagnosis in July.

“We followed our in-house protocols and the Maine CDC recommendations,” Poiesz said. “We notified them of our positive test at the end of July.”

The elderly female resident of the residential care facility was moved into a private room for treatment with prescribed antibiotics and has since been moved back into her regular quarters, Poiesz said, adding she has recovered and is doing well.

Subsequent testing on Borderview staff and residents turned up 12 cases of “latent tuberculosis,” according to Poiesz.

“This was never a risk to the general public,” Dr. Stephen Sears, state epidemiologist, said on Friday. “TB is a disease that exists throughout the United States and we continue to see it in Maine.”

According to information on the Maine CDC website, Maine saw 17 cases of TB in 2012.

TB, according to Sears, is an infectious disease caused by a bacteria and most often impacts the lungs. It is treated through a course of antibiotics.

Those who test positive for TB exposure, or latent TB, he said, show no symptoms and are in no way contagious.

“Several [staff and residents] tested positive at Borderview,” Sears said. “When someone has [TB] and coughs on another person, that second person may get infected, but is not sick [and] tests positive for latent TB.”

Sears said a team of medical professionals from the state CDC traveled to Borderview in response to the case..

“We were onsite to help assess the situation and provide education,” he said. “We have been working with them to both get the person treated and to determine if there are any more exposed.”

It is not uncommon for TB to present in the elderly who may have been exposed to the disease at an earlier age.

“There are cases when a person is exposed to it when they are younger and it can reactivate in later years,” Sears said. “We will see cases like this on occasions in nursing homes or rehabilitation centers.”

In addition to treating the active case with medication, Poiesz said the latent cases were followed up with additional tests to assure they were not becoming active.

Borderview was never closed while the patient was in treatment and the facility continued to operate on a normal schedule, Poiesz said.

“We verbally communicated the situation to families of staff and residents,” he said. “Dr. Sears spoke with local hospitals to inform them of the situation.”

All cases of TB must be reported to the Maine CDC.

“It works well when it is reported,” Sears said. “We are here to provide the help and resources.”

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