Three infants die in Pa. NICU from waterborne infection


DANVILLE, MONTOUR COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Three infants are now dead – all of them victims of a waterborne infection in the NICU at Geisinger Medical Center Danville.

The NICU at Geisinger has recently experienced an outbreak of pseudomonas infection, which is a waterborne infection among premature infants.

A total of eight babies have been exposed to the infection. Four were treated and recovered, and one is still receiving treatment.

A press conference was held Monday afternoon addressing the steps being taken by the hospital.

Six hundred to 700 babies go through the NICU at Geisinger each year.

“Pseudomonas is a very common bacteria. It is present in our environment in many different places. It is often very harmless,” Frank Maffei, MD, Chair of Pediatrics, said.

Doctors say they believe the deaths of the three infants were a result of their already vulnerable state because they were born extremely premature.

Officials at Geisinger say they are doing everything in their power to get to the bottom of this.

“It’s really too soon to say exactly where the organism is coming from, but what we have, the info we have so far, suggests it’s someplace outside of the NICU and are continuing to pursue that and confirm that as best we can,” Mark Shelly, M.D., Director of Infection Prevention said.

“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. “Our neonatal unit has never seen a situation involving infections like this.”

Officials with Geisinger say they are taking the precautionary steps in making sure this type of outbreak doesn’t happen again.

“What do you do when a bad thing happens like this? You do everything you can to eliminate anything you are suspicious of. So we have done everything that we could,” Dr. Shelly said. “We made sure we increased the chlorination of the water. We put some special filters on the taps. We have done extra cleaning – even though we didn’t find the organism on the surfaces.”

Hospital officials say they noticed a child had an unusual infection in early August at the NICU.

Geisinger would not say when the infected children died – but do say they hope to have a clear answer in a couple of weeks.

The NICU will remain open, however, it’s restricting babies born under 32 weeks.

Geisinger says any baby born over 32 weeks will be safe and will safely be taken care of.

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