Three Infants Died at Geisinger Medical Center NICU from Waterborne Infection

MAHONING TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Three infants are dead from an infection they contracted in the neonatal intensive care unit at Geisinger Medical Center near Danville.

Officials at Geisinger confirm eight infants were recently treated for a pseudomonas bacterial infection. Three of the babies died.

Geisinger is diverting infants born at less than 32 weeks and moms who may deliver that early to other hospitals.

Officials at Geisinger Medical Center were solemn as they announced an increase in cases of pseudomonas infection at the hospital's NICU.

Three of those cases were deadly.

"Eight infants have tested positive for the pseudomonas bacteria. Seven of them were born before 27 weeks," said Dr. Frank Maffei, chair of pediatrics.

Geisinger physicians say pseudomonas is a common waterborne bacterium that is usually harmless, but because these infants do not have well developed immune systems, they were especially vulnerable.

Geisinger's department of infection prevention did cultures of the water and surfaces in the NICU and did not find the bacteria.

"It's really too soon to say exactly where the organism is coming from, but the information we have so far suggests that it's someplace outside of the NICU," said Dr. Mark Shelley, director of infection prevention and control.

For the time being, Geisinger is diverting some patients to other hospitals. This includes women likely to deliver at less than 32 weeks and babies born at less than 32 weeks.

"It does not affect any mom who is delivering a child over 32 weeks gestation. This is critically important," said Dr. Rosemary Leeming, chief medical officer.

Geisinger officials say the bacteria has not been found anywhere else in the hospital, and this is the hospital's highest priority.

"This is our obligation. This is our responsibility. We owe this to our community, to our families, and most importantly, to the children we care for," Dr. Maffei said.

A hotline has been set up for people who have questions about the situation. The hotline numbers are 570-214-9087 and 570-214-9088.

As for the other five infants, Geisinger officials say four were treated and are doing well. One is still getting treatment and responding positively.

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