Hos­pi­tal hunts for germ that killed 3 pre­emies

At least 8 ‘very frag­ile’ new­borns in­fected in Danville neona­tal ICU

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS -

DANVILLE — A Penn­syl­va­nia hos­pi­tal is rac­ing to de­ter­mine the source of a wa­ter­borne germ that ap­pears to have in­fected at least eight in­fants in the neona­tal in­ten­sive care unit, three of whom have died, of­fi­cials said Mon­day.

Geisinger Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Danville has be­gun send­ing very pre­ma­ture new­borns and some ex­pec­tant moth­ers to other fa­cil­i­ties while of­fi­cials in­ves­ti­gate, the hos­pi­tal said.

Four ba­bies have re­cov­ered from an in­fec­tion caused by the Pseu­domonas bac­terium, and one is still be­ing treated with an­tibi­otics, the hos­pi­tal said.

Of­fi­cials said they are work­ing with state and fed­eral health au­thor­i­ties to en­sure the bac­te­ria have been erad­i­cated.

The bac­te­ria are com­mon and of­ten harm­less but can cause dis­ease in “very frag­ile pa­tients,” Dr. Frank Maf­fei, the hos­pi­tal’s chair of pe­di­atrics, said at a news con­fer­ence.

The deaths, he said, ”may have been a re­sult of the in­fec­tion com­pli­cat­ing an al­ready vul­ner­a­ble state.”

As a pre­cau­tion, the hos­pi­tal is trans­fer­ring ba­bies born at less than 32 weeks’ ges­ta­tion to other hos­pi­tals and di­vert­ing other ex­pected pre­ma­ture de­liv­er­ies to other hos­pi­tals.

Full-term preg­nan­cies amount to 40 weeks of ges­ta­tion.

“It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that we are only talk­ing about di­vert­ing th­ese very pre­ma­ture in­fants, less than 32 weeks, both the moms who would be de­liv­er­ing at that age or the ba­bies al­ready born,” said Dr. Rose­mary Leem­ing, the hos­pi­tal’s chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer.

Doc­tors said they first be­came aware of an un­usual in­fec­tion in early Au­gust.

The neona­tal in­ten­sive care unit is in­side a chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal that is part of a larger cam­pus.

It could take weeks to de­ter­mine how the in­fec­tions oc­curred, al­though it’s likely the pathogen was brought in from out­side the chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal, in­ves­ti­ga­tors said.

Cul­tures of the wa­ter sup­ply and sur­faces in­side the neona­tal in­ten­sive care unit, where all the in­fec­tions oc­curred, tested neg­a­tive for Pseu­domonas, of­fi­cials said.

”It’s re­ally too soon to say ex­actly where the or­gan­ism is com­ing from, but the in­for­ma­tion we have so far sug­gests that it’s some­place out­side of the neona­tal in­ten­sive care unit,” said Dr. Mark Shelly, Geisinger’s direc­tor of in­fec­tion con­trol and pre­ven­tion.

The hos­pi­tal has in­creased chlo­ri­na­tion of wa­ter, bol­stered wa­ter fil­ter­ing, per­formed ex­tra clean­ing and changed some of its pro­cesses.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion may not re­veal ex­actly what went wrong, Shelly said.

Seven of the eight ba­bies were born at less than 26 weeks of ges­ta­tion, and the eighth was born at less than 27 weeks, ac­cord­ing to the hos­pi­tal.

The Danville hos­pi­tal’s neona­tal in­ten­sive care unit treats more than 600 ba­bies a year.

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