Worker who treats cancer patients in Seattle tests positive for tuberculosis

SEATTLE -- An oncology healthcare worker has tested positive for tuberculosis, UW Medical Center and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance said Tuesday.

The worker came into contact with cancer patients between February and July of 2016. UW Medicine said it was contacting those 140 cancer patients by letter to offer TB testing at no charge.

"While we believe the risk of transmission from this health care worker is low, we are taking every step possible in collaboration with Public Health – Seattle & King County to minimize any risk to patients, family members, caregivers and staff," UW medicine officials said in a news release.

UW Medicine established a Nurse Call Line as a resource for patients, family members, caregivers or anyone else who has questions -- 1-855-520-8600.

Officials said staff members who may have worked in close proximity to the health care worker have all tested negative to date.

"Taking into account all the available clinical information and the contact evaluation, we believe the risk of TB spread from the health care worker to others, including patients, is low.

After the health care worker proactively informed UWMC and SCCA of possible infection, both organizations contacted Public Health – Seattle & King County.  The organizations are working in partnership and believe the risk of transmission to be low. The healthcare worker is on medical leave and responding well to treatment.

UW Medicine and SCCA are committed to ensuring the well-being and safety of our patients, family members, caregivers and staff."

They said one of the worker's close contacts has tested positive for a latent TB infection. Officials are not sure if the positive test is related to this exposure. That person had other risk factors for TB, including traveling to a part of the world where the infection is common.