Three infants have died at Geisinger Medical Center's neonatal intensive care unit recently following an increase in a waterborne bacteria among infants according to a statement released by the hospital this morning.
Hospital officials are temporarily diverting mothers likely to deliver prematurely to other regional facilities, according to the statement.
"Our neonatal intensive care unit has never seen a situation involving infections like this," said Dr. Frank Maffei, Geisinger's chair of pediatrics during a press conference this afternoon. "Our neonatal intensive care unit has been a cornerstone of our children's hospital for 25 years. The unit has provided explain care for the tiniest of babies."
"It's too soon to say where organism is coming from," said Dr. Mark Shelly, Geisinger's director of infection prevention.
According to the statement from Geisinger Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Edward Hartle, eight infants "confined specifically" to Geisinger's NICU were treated for a pseudomonas infection. Three infants passed away, Hartle said "which may have been a result of the infection complicating their already vulnerable state due to extreme prematurity. We express our deepest sympathies and provide our full support to the families and loved ones who have been affected."
Four infants have been successfully treated and the eighth is still receiving antibiotic treatment, hospital officials report.
"We continue to work closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate and ensure that proactive measures already taken have eradicated the bacteria as well as prevent any additional cases," Hartle said in the statement. "We will continue our meticulous and comprehensive infection control practices at GMC to reduce the risk of any infection in any infant, and we remain committed to providing the highest level of family-centered neonatal care for our families and babies.”
Maffei said seven of the infants infected with the bacteria were born before 27 weeks. A full-term child is born at 40 weeks.
"This is a very common bacteria and is present in very different places and is often very harmless," Maffei said. "But it can cause disease in very fragile patients. Premature and tiny babies are among our most fragile."
A hotline has been established for anyone with questions. The hotline numbers are 570-214-9087 and 570-214-9088.