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Crossroads workers undergo testing for TB

By Mara Knaub, The Sun, Yuma, Ariz.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Dec. 03--Every day, the employees at Crossroads Mission help a large number of people in need, including the homeless and those struggling with addiction.

Because of the nature of their work, they are at high risk for tuberculosis.

However, for several years they have not been tested for TB, as the disease is commonly known.

"We had been told by the (Yuma County) health department that there was not enough serum (for the tests)," explained Barbara Rochester, Crossroads special events and public relations director.

Then Rochester ran into Apryl Brand, a registered nurse at Palmview Rehabilitation and Care Center, and told her about her concerns. She asked her, "Can you help?"

Rochester knew Brand was involved with the Yuma Free Clinic and hoped the nurse might point her in the right direction.

"Perhaps I can," Brand replied.

She turned to Adam Merrell, Palmview's administrator. "Yes, we'll do it," Merrell told Brand.

Palmview was in the unique position to help. Since all employees get tested annually for TB, the facility has access to the tests.

Merrell directed Brand to donate the tests and supplies, such as rubber gloves, syringes, and alcohol swabs, and recruit nurses to administer the tests.

"I asked and he responded. I was so thrilled," she recalled.

Brand offered to administer the tests herself, along with fellow registered nurse Susan Bryant.

"Crossroads does so much in our community for the homeless. The people at Crossroads are exposed to so many things. They have a high volume of people," Brand said.

"We all need to do what we can to help them," she added.

On Monday, 42 of the 54 employees showed up for the TB tests.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium called mycobacterium tuberculosis. The bacteria usually attack the lungs, but it can attack any part of the body such as the kidney, spine and brain. If not treated properly, TB disease can be fatal.

TB is spread through the air with coughs, sneezes or by speaking or even singing. People nearby may breathe in the bacteria and become infected, the CDC explains on its website.

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There are two kinds of tests used to detect TB bacteria in the body: the skin test and blood tests.

In this case, the Palmview nurses used the skin test on Crossroads employees.

They performed the test by injecting a small amount of fluid (called tuberculin) into the skin in the lower part of the arm. A person given the tuberculin skin test must return within 48 to 72 hours to have a trained health care worker look for a reaction on the arm, the CDC explains.

When Brand returns on Wednesday, she will look for a raised, hard area or swelling, and if present, measure its size using a ruler. Redness by itself is not considered part of the reaction.

"Hopefully I won't find any (positive results)," Brand said.

Not everyone infected with TB bacteria becomes sick, the CDC notes. The bacteria can live in the body without making a person sick. This is called latent TB infection. Most people are able to fight the bacteria.

Nevertheless, if someone tests positive for the TB bacteria, he or she must undergo a chest X-ray.

If Crossroads employees have no insurance or money for further testing, the Palmview nurses will refer them to the Yuma Free Clinic.

"We won't let them fall through the cracks," Brand said.

The health department will supply those who test positive with medication, if anyone does.

"We are very, very pleased," Rochester said. "We are happy because we're so high risk being around homeless and so many people."

"Crossroads is so grateful," noted Brand. "It's very rewarding. I think the people at Crossroads deserve to have the tests."

Merrell, Palmview's administrator "made this all happen. We are grateful to him for his generosity in helping Crossroads Mission and their employees," Brand added.

Mara Knaub can be reached at mknaub@yumasun.com or (928) 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.

___

(c)2013 The Sun (Yuma, Ariz.)

Visit The Sun (Yuma, Ariz.) at www.yumasun.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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