MORE than 40 babies who were treated in a neo-natal unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital have been called back to be tested for tuberculosis.
Health chiefs today said the skin and blood tests set to be carried out on the youngsters were “purely precautionary,” and urged parents not to worry at this stage.
Parents of all 41 babies who medics say need to be tested have now been contacted to arrange appointments after they came into contact with someone who had the illness during their time at the hospital.
The tots are set to be tested next week, with parents due to find out the results days later.
The children were at the neo-natal unit between May 1 and August 7 this year.
A total of 92 babies were cared for on the ward, which treats premature babies as well as those born with illnesses, at the time, but 41 have been identified as having to be tested.
The parent of one child who received a letter from health chiefs this week today demanded answers.
His child was cared for at the neo-natal unit after being born underweight.
“It is really worrying for us,” said the dad, who did not want to be named.
“We have a lot of questions: how was this uncovered? Are the staff being screened for having things like this?
“We are going in for tests early next week and then we’ll find out the results, so it’s just a waiting game at the minute.”
Symptoms of TB in babies are less obvious than in adults, but Public Health England say the most important is a fever.
Royal bosses have stressed that the chances of developing TB are rare and the condition is treatable with a course of antibiotics.
Medical director at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, Ian Martin, said: “We have worked closely with Public Health England and clinical experts in Newcastle to ensure that we have reacted speedily and positively in alerting parents and reassuring those who may be worried.
“TB is very difficult to catch and the risk of any of the babies having developed TB is extremely low.
“TB, however, is treatable and can be easily cured with a course of antibiotics should that be necessary.
“We have set up dedicated clinics for the babies to be assessed and a helpline is available for any parents that may have concerns before that appointment takes place. The trust recognises and apologises for the anxiety and distress that this will have undoubtedly caused parents.”
A helpline for parents is available from 8am to 8pm daily on 07810 637 810.