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Saturday 16 December 2017

Five more babies monitored for killer hospital infection

Michael McHugh

ANOTHER five babies are being monitored for an infection which killed three new-borns in hospital.

The pseudomonas bacteria has been discovered on their skin, although this is not causing active infection, the Department of Health in Northern Ireland said.

A deep clean of the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital in west Belfast was completed at the weekend and a helpline set up to support expectant mothers worried about giving birth at the neonatal unit has been extended due to demand. Two women were forced to make the 100-mile journey to Dublin to have their babies because of the outbreak.

Three babies have died and three others have contracted the infection, which affects the chest, blood and urinary tract.

The parents of 24 infants were anxiously awaiting test results released over the weekend. No new cases of the infection were discovered.

The Department said: "At this stage, five babies who have the pseudomonas bacteria on their skin have been identified, this is not causing active infection. The babies continue to receive the neonatal care they require.

"As a precautionary measure, babies' skin may be screened again as the situation requires to see if they are carrying the bacteria. All necessary precautions are being taken to avoid spread of infection."

Decontamination of the intensive care part of the neo-natal unit at the Royal is complete. The affected area in the unit will remain closed while a team of specialists continues attempts to identify the most likely sources of the infection.

All other maternity services and wards in the hospital are fully operational and working as normal.

Pseudomonas lives in water or moisture and patients can carry it on their skin. The infection can be treated with the right antibiotic, but the third baby who died failed to respond to the treatment.

Overall numbers in Northern Ireland, England and Wales have declined over the last few years.

There were a total of 3,807 cases of all strands of pseudomonas reported in 2010, a slight drop from 3,888 in 2009 and 3,957 cases in 2008.

The large intensive care room at the Royal's maternity unit, which holds up to 13 babies, has already been cleared and the infants moved into separate small rooms.

A different - and apparently unlinked - strain of the infection also claimed the life of another baby in Altnagelvin hospital in Derry last month.

The infection was subsequently eradicated and health officials said there was no evidence to suggest it was linked to the strain that has hit the Royal's maternity unit.

Earlier, Health Minister Edwin Poots stressed that the neonatal unit is the only part of the hospital affected by the pseudomonas outbreak.

Delivery wards and all other services at the hospital are operating as normal, and expectant mothers have been advised they should attend their appointments as scheduled.

Two women were forced to make the 100-mile journey to Dublin to have their babies because of the outbreak.

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