A bacterial infection has killed three infants at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania, 70 miles north of Harrisburg. A spokesman for the hospital also confirmed that five other babies contracted infections. Four of them have recovered, and one is still receiving treatment.
The babies contracted a waterborne bacterial infection in Geisinger Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit. According to the hospital’s director of media relations, Matthew Van Stone, the hospital discovered the bacteria's presence in July. They identified the bacteria as Pseudomonas. Each of the three babies died in the two months following the discovery of the problem.
About Exposure to Pseudomonas Bacteria in Geisinger Medical Center
Van Stone revealed that all babies who became ill were born prematurely. The hospital believes that these infants were more susceptible because of their weak immune system. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the bacteria is a common finding throughout the environment. When exposed to a weak immune system, it causes an infection known as Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
"In many cases, the immune system can withstand the bacteria without symptoms," Van Stone commented. "In fragile individuals such as premature infants or the elderly, the resulting infection can cause significant illness."
How Officials Are Handling the Pseudomonas Bacteria Outbreak
The hospital claims that it has taken extensive measures to rid its units of the infection. According to Van Stone, these measures included “achieving optimal chlorination in water lines, improving and maintaining vigilance in donor breast milk processing, routine tap water cultures, increased deep cleaning of our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and many others."
However, this might not be enough to solve the problem. Dr. Mark Shelley is the director of infection prevention at Geisinger. Shelley said, “It's really too soon to say exactly where the organism is coming from,” and that the hospital has done a thorough cleaning, used filters on taps, and adjusted its processes.
Currently, the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the CDC are investigating the incident. Additionally, Geisinger Medical Center has transferred some babies as a precaution. The hospital has also announced that it will direct mothers delivering prematurely to other facilities “out of an abundance of caution.”