Relatively rare case of tuberculosis at northwest Omaha child care center sparks investigation of 500 possible exposures

By: - November 9, 2023 7:17 pm

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OMAHA — Nebraska’s largest county is investigating more than 500 possible exposures to a “relatively rare” case of active tuberculosis at a northwest Omaha drop-in day care center, officials announced Thursday.

The Douglas County Health Department also said that an official declaration of a public health emergency is forthcoming, due to the potential risk for widespread illness.

According to a news release, the possible exposures would have happened from late spring into early October at Westview YMCA, near 156th and Ida Streets in the Bennington area.

The exposure took place at the Westview YMCA Childwatch, which provides short-term care for children while their parent or guardian is in the facility working out. There were no exposures at any of the other YMCA Childwatches or at any of the YMCA Early Learning Center daycares, a YMCA representative said.

Health officials are tracing the patient’s activities while contagious with the disease, to learn of potential exposures. They are helping the patient isolate and observing a medication regimen until testing is negative for TB.

County officials did not identify the patient, age or gender.

They said they have been working to notify parents of children and anyone else who had close contact. 

County Health Director Lindsay Huse, in the news release, said that TB is treatable, and that testing for TB is recommended only for those who had close contact on one or more occasions.

Close contact, in this case, was defined as spending extended time on one or more occasions with a contagious person, who spreads the germs by coughing. That includes being in the same room with the patient but does not include brief exposures in areas such as cafeterias or hallways.

Those exposed were to have received an email letter.

A parent informational meeting was scheduled for Thursday Nov. 9 at Westview YMCA at 6:30 p.m.

Clinics also are planned:

  • Saturday and Sunday, at Children’s Nebraska, to test children under age 5 who were potentially exposed in the last 10 weeks.
  • Nov. 15-17, at Westview YMCA, to test anyone identified as exposed from late May until Aug. 21.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says TB is caused by a bacterium and spreads through air when an infected person coughs, speaks or sings. It usually attacks the lungs but can affect any part of the body, including kidneys, spine and brain. 

Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick, and some may develop latent TB.  If not treated properly, the CDC says, TB can be fatal.

Facts provided by the County Health Department:

  • TB cases are “relatively rare,” but the DCHD is “experienced at managing them.” Douglas County had 15 confirmed cases in 2022, and 15 cases this year, through September .
  • The CDC has reported more than 8,000 cases this year across the United States.
  • Symptoms include a cough that lasts for multiple weeks, chest pain, coughing up blood or sputum, weakness and fatigue, weight loss, no appetite, chills, fever and night sweats.


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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics.