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Johns Hopkins Declares Zero Risk After Accidental Release Of Tuberculosis Bacteria

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Employees at the two cancer buildings in Johns Hopkins Hospital were evacuated on July 5 due to an accidental release of bacteria from tuberculosis vials.

Johns Hopkins said they were able to contain the vials and there are no risks to anyone who was present at the buildings. The Baltimore City Fire Department responded to the bridge that connects the Cancer Research Building 1 and Cancer Research Building 2, both of which are not connected to the main hospital.

A statement from the hospital said the bacteria, used primarily for medical research, may have been inadvertently released while in transit.

"We have determined that there is actually no risk, meaning zero risk to anyone involved," said Landon King, the executive vice dean for Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

He added that the people who were on or near the site of exposure do not need additional testing.

What Is Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that is typically transmitted from one person to another through coughing and sneezing. The bacteria affect the lungs, which can lead to chest pain, fatigue, fever, prolonged coughing or coughing up blood, night sweats, and loss of appetite.

Tuberculosis resurfaced in developed countries like the United States since 1985 due to the spread of the HIV. The AIDS-causing HIV virus weakens the immune system that it is unable to fight the tuberculosis bacteria, according to Mayo Clinic. This means that people who contracted the HIV are likely to get worse if they have tuberculosis.

Incidence Of Tuberculosis

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the incidence of tuberculosis in the United States is decreasing with 9,272 reported cases in 2016.

Approximately 10.4 million people globally became sick with tuberculosis in the same year. About 1.7 million died from the disease in the same year, making it one of the top 10 most fatal, according to the World Health Organization.

Other affected nations include the United Kingdom, China, India, Mexico, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Tuberculosis is treatable but there are strains of the disease that have become resistant to antibiotics, which makes treatment long and expensive.

"What we want to do and it started already in East London is to offer latent screening for TB for those who may be at high risk, and they could be identified and offered a simple test. And that I think will really be a game changer," said Yvonne Doyle, London regional director for Public Health England.

If tuberculosis is left untreated, it could lead to other life-threatening conditions including kidney and liver problems, meningitis, heart diseases, and joint damage.

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