Tainted breast milk killed 3 preemies, officials say

Three babies who were born prematurely at a Pennsylvania hospital died as a result of a waterborne bacteria that was traced to equipment used to measure breast milk, a recently completed investigation has revealed.

DNA testing reportedly confirmed the origin of the pseudomonas bacteria that sickened eight babies who were admitted at Geisinger Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). ABC News reported that the hospital had switched to single-use equipment in September, and has not had an infection since.

“It is important to emphasize that the donor breast milk at Geisinger is safe, and we are certain the milk itself was not the cause of the exposure,” Dr. Edward Hartle, the hospital’s chief medical officer, said in a statement.

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Though common, the CDC says Pseudomonas infections are especially dangerous for patients who are on breathing machines. The bacteria isn’t transmitted from person to person, but it can be spread on the hands of healthcare workers or through contaminated or improperly-cleaned medical equipment, according to the agency.

PennLive noted that the eight babies, including the three that died, were born at less than 27 weeks, which is considered very premature. Doctors said the first infant was infected in August and though the type of infection was not determined, they immediately began antibiotic treatment.

Mothers who were likely to give birth before 32 weeks gestation and infants born at less than 32 weeks gestation were reportedly being diverted to other area hospitals. Geisinger Medical Center officials told the news outlet on Friday that they will continue to do so until they and the Pennsylvania Department of Health deem it is suitable to resume admitting babies at the hospital.

“We would like to extend our sincere apologies to the families who have been affected by this incident,” Geisinger Medical Center said in a statement to PennLive.com.

“We know that the public holds us to the highest standards, and we will continue to strive to live up to those expectations as we have throughout our history, constantly improving on what we do and how we do it.”

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[Featured image: Pixabay]