The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland reported that a small amount of the infectious germ of tuberculosis was potentially released in its facilities while being transported.
“The Baltimore City Fire and Rescue unit initiated hazmat protocols and, out of an abundance of caution, both research buildings were evacuated. Public safety officials as well as infectious disease experts have now cleared the buildings, and the evacuation has been lifted,” a Johns Hopkins spokesperson told the media. The incident involved a small vial of a frozen sample of tuberculosis being dropped onto the floor and having its lid fall off. The drop occurred in the internal bridge that connects the hospital’s Cancer Research Building 1 to its Cancer Research Building 2—a non-patient area of the hospital.
TB is spread through the air and typically attacks the lungs. It can cause a hacking cough that lasts for weeks, chest pain, and a tell-tale coughing up of blood. It can lies dormant in the body, incapable of causing disease and being spreadable or can emerge later in on life, usually when a person’s immune system is weakened. As much as 20 percent of TB strains are multi-drug resistant (MDR), meaning they can rebuff the two frontline drugs used for treatment, rifampicin and isoniazid. In some cases it is even totally untreatable.