LA hospital closes two units after 7 children infected

Sunday, December 17, 2006

LOS ANGELES -- A hospital has closed its neonatal and pediatrics intensive care units to new admissions after a potentially fatal bacterium sickened seven children, including an infant who may have died from the infection, officials said.

White Memorial Medical Center shut down the neonatal unit Dec. 4 following an outbreak of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and both units will remain closed until they are considered safe, hospital officials said Friday.

Any critically ill babies born at the hospital now are stabilized in a special isolation area before being transferred to other hospitals, officials said.

The germ is believed to have infected five babies in the unit since it was detected Nov. 30, said Dr. Laurene Mascola, director of the county's acute communicable disease control unit. One of the infants died, likely because of the pathogen, she said.

Infants who test negative for the germ are being held in separate areas, officials said.

Officials say they've identified the source of the outbreak -- a medical instrument called a laryngoscope blade used to look at an infant's larynx that may not have been properly cleaned. Officials don't believe there is a danger to other babies, Dr. Rosalio Lopez, the hospital's chief medical officer, said.

Though common, the germ is particularly virulent in those with weak immune systems such as newborns who are premature or critically ill.

The hospital is working with county, state and federal health officials to investigate the outbreak, Lopez said. The hospital also is reviewing its policies for controlling infections.

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