EXCLUSIVE: Dangerous mould found in national maternity hospital
A sometimes fatal airborne mould has been discovered in the walls of the neonatal unit of Holles Street Hospital, Independent.ie has learned.
The mould, called aspergillus, was found during preparation building works for a new theatre development at the Dublin city centre hospital where 10,000 babies are born every year.
Aspergillus is particularly dangerous for children who have weak immune systems and fewer infection-fighting cells either through illness or medications they are taking.
It can cause a number of infections including fever in those with asthma or cystic fibrosis and it can also cause allergic sinusitis.
In extreme cases, the mould can lead to a disease called aspergillosis or fatal haemorrhages within the lungs.
And without prompt treatment, aspergillus has the potential to spread to the brain, kidneys or heart, where it is usually fatal.
Because it is airborne, it is also very difficult to prevent the spread of the mould.
Dr Michael Robson, master of Holles Street, confirmed the discovery of the mould yesterday but added that no baby has been infected by the asperigillus mould.
He also said that all babies had already been moved from the area where the mould was discovered as part of health and safety measures ahead of the construction work.
“Aspergillus was dicovered in a small area in the plasterwork in the neonatal unit.
“During any building works there is an increased risk of airborne release of dust into the environment,” he told Independent.ie.
“Some patients with very low immunity such as extremely pre-term babies require protection.
Currently, all babies are being cared for in an alternative part of the hospital.”
Aspergillus, which is found in the environment, is not dangerous for children or adults with normal immune systems because when mould spores are inhaled, they are destroyed by healthy cells.
Medical sources confirmed to Independent.ie that hospitals are perfect breeding grounds for such moulds, especially when building work is being done.
“Hospital ventilation systems are homes to all kinds of viruses and bacteria,” the source said.
“Not only do they contain oxygen - but also all kinds of dirt and grime.”
Mr Robson added that following the discovery, expert advice was sought from the Health Service Executive and also from independent consultants and that advice is being followed.