Feared Tuberculosis Contamination Causes Johns Hopkins Hospital Evacuation

Patrick SemanskyAP Images

Two Johns Hopkins Hospital buildings in Baltimore had to be evacuated today after it was determined that a small amount of frozen tuberculosis had been spilled on a footbridge between two buildings. The Baltimore City Fire Department was on the scene to make sure it was safe for patients and employees to return to the buildings.

Dr. Landon King, executive vice dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, proclaimed there was no risk of contamination, says the Baltimore Sun.

“We have determined there is no risk involved. The sample that leaked was equivalent to a few drops.”

The Baltimore Fire Department said they received a call shortly after noon to say that a tuberculosis sample had been spilled. The fire department sent a dozen vehicles and a hazmat squad to the location outside of the Johns Hopkins cancer research center. The hospital has verified that they turned off the ventilation system within the hospital immediately after the reported spill because tuberculosis is an airborne bacterial disease that can infect the respiratory system. The disease is also considered extremely contagious.

Dajuan Robinson is a Johns Hopkins Hospital employee who said he got a text message right after the leak was identified.

“When I saw the text I knew it was something serious. They just let us know it was a hazmat situation and kept us updated.”

The Wall Street Journal said that both buildings reopened just after 4 p.m. this afternoon after it was determined that there was no risk. Tuberculosis is treatable in most cases, but many people at the hospital are already immune compromised, putting them more at risk.

The CDC says many people in the world have been exposed to tuberculosis, as it is easily spread through coughing or spittle.

“About one-quarter of the world’s population is believed to be infected with TB bacteria, but fewer than 10,000 cases are reported each year in the U.S.”

Johns Hopkins has its own tuberculosis research center, which has programs around the world in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and South Africa that studies the efficacy of various treatments versus prevention.

This is the second incident this year in Maryland involving tuberculosis bacteria. Earlier this year at a U.S. Army research facility at Ft. Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, an employee, and several lab animals were found to be exposed to tuberculosis bacteria.

This situation was leaked to the press and a thorough investigation was launched into area research facilities.