Pseudomonas: Three babies die following outbreak of bacterial infection in children"s hospital

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Three babies die following outbreak of bacterial infection in children's hospital
Northern Ireland health minister asks parents to remain calm

An investigation has been launched after three babies died following the outbreak of an infection at a hospital in Belfast.

Belfast Health Trust said admission to the neonatal unit at the Royal Hospital is being restricted after the outbreak of pseudomonas.

Meanwhile an investigation to trace the killer bug has been launched at the maternity unit, which will undergo a deep clean.

Two babies have died following an outbreak of pseudomonas at The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children (pictured)

Two babies have died following an outbreak of pseudomonas at The Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children (pictured)

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is bacteria found in soil, water, plants and animals, and is particularly harmful to those who are already ill.

Northern Ireland health minister Edwin Poots said expectant mothers are likely to be transferred to other hospitals in the Irish Republic and Britain.

He said: 'It is important that we remain calm. Infection control teams are now in the process of trying to identify the source of the infection and minimise the risk of spread to other babies in the unit.

'Babies in neonatal units are already vulnerable due to clinical conditions and varying degrees of prematurity. This makes them less able to withstand infections including those that would not cause problems in healthy babies.'

A representative for The Royal said the situation is being kept under constant review.

The first two babies to die were premature. Following the deaths the spokesman said: 'Sadly two ill babies have died whose deaths may be linked to this outbreak. We are supporting these families at this very difficult time.

'We are in the process of investigating the outbreak and taking all steps to identify the source.'

The hospital is asking everyone, including parents and guardians, to be diligent in their hand hygiene when entering and leaving the unit.

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Edwin Poots sent his sympathies to the babies’ families.

'This is a serious incident. The priority now is to identify the source of the infection and minimise the risk of spread to other extremely vulnerable babies in the unit,' he said.

'I have asked the trust to work with the Public Health Agency to ensure all necessary steps are swiftly taken to identify the source of the infection so that we contain it and reduce the risk of spreading.

'I have asked the Belfast Trust and the Public Health Agency to keep me fully informed.

'I have also directed the Health and Social Care Board to work with the trust to minimise any potential impact on the availability of neonatal intensive care cots.'

WHAT IS PSEUDOMONAS

Pseudomonas is bacteria which multiplies in the lungs of people whose immune systems are weakened by illness or medication, or have lung conditions like Cystic Fibrosis (CF).

It is found in many natural places including plants, soil, surface or
stagnant water and warm moist environments. It can also be found on food, taps, in sink reservoirs, bath toys, pools, jacuzzis, hot tubs and flower water.

Pseudomonas can be spread from one person another person via unwashed hands. It can live on hands and surfaces for up to two and a half hours.

Symptoms of a Pseudomonas chest infection can include increased
coughing and tiredness. It is usually detected by cough swab or sputum specimen.

The treatment for Pseudomonas is an antibiotic given through a nebuliser for three months twice a day after physiotherapy, along with a three week course of antibiotics.

Sometimes it can be difficult to treat the Pseudomonas, due to a slimy barrier the bacteria forms around itself. It can also become resistant to some antibiotics.

Sometimes intravenous antibiotics may need to be given if the condition persists to try and prevent the bacteria damaging the lung tissue and becoming permanent.

Source: Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals Trust