In May 2013, 25-year-old Vanessa White prematurely gave birth to two twin daughters at Summerlin Hospital in Las Vegas. White was ill both before and during her pregnancy, but the hospital ruled out the possibility that White was suffering from tuberculosis. White continued to visit her premature daughters at the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after her discharge from the hospital. One twin died on June 1. White died one month later, and was diagnosed with tuberculosis through an autopsy. White’s other twin daughter was then diagnosed with tuberculosis, and died on August 1.
Tuberculosis is a potentially fatal condition caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. According to an interim report from the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD), a latent TB infection (LTBI) indicates that an individual is infected, but does not currently have the active disease and therefore is not contagious. A person with LTBI may not have symptoms, but is at risk of their LBTI progressing to the more serious form of tuberculosis: TB disease. TB disease is an active disease, and can cause symptoms including unexplained weight loss, fever, cough, night sweats, and shortness of breath. The most serious form of the condition is infectious TB disease, which is TB disease of the lungs or larynx. It can be transmitted from person to person.
The SNHD suggested that M. bovis, a member of the bacterium that causes TB disease, may have been the original cause of the tuberculosis infection that may have originated with White. M. bovis is found in cattle and other animals, and often infects humans through their consumption of contaminated, unpasteurized dairy products. Members of White’s family reported that White had consumed unpasteurized dairy products from Mexico.
According to the SNHD, 977 non-infant persons were identified as needing evaluation for tuberculosis based upon their potential exposure to the disease at the Summerlin Hospital or while in contact with White or her daughters. These individuals included health care workers, persons who had personal contact with White, other patients at the hospital, and visitors of patients at the hospital. The majority of those evaluated tested negative for the disease, but two individuals were diagnosed with the active TB disease, and 59 others had indications of LTBI. The remaining individuals had incomplete evaluations.
Additionally, the SNHD identified 142 infants who needed to be evaluated for possible exposure to tuberculosis. As of the date of the report, 34 infants had completed the round of evaluations, and none had indications of TB.
In November, the Nevada Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance faulted Summerlin for failing to take precautions and warn people about their possible exposure to tuberculosis. Later that month, eight employees, former patients, and visitors of the Summerlin Hospital filed a lawsuit against the hospital. The class action alleges that Summerlin was negligent in failing to follow isolation guidelines, and failing to screen and diagnose White while she showed symptoms of tuberculosis and continued to visit the hospital and the NICU without protective clothing. Several more individuals who had potentially been exposed to tuberculosis at Summerlin have since joined that class action. As of last week, 172 plaintiffs have joined in that action. In a separate lawsuit, White’s family has sued Summerlin for their negligence in missing indications of tuberculosis that could have saved the lives of White and her twin daughters. Currently, Lagomarsino Law is not involved in the representation of any party in these lawsuits.
Hundreds of thousands of individuals suffer personal injury or death each year as a result of medical malpractice. Summerlin’s medical errors in failing to diagnose, treat, and contain White’s condition exposed hundreds to the risk of contracting tuberculosis. If you have experienced similar negligence from a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider, contact a medical malpractice lawyer at Lagomarsino Law for a free consultation and case evaluation.