A waterborne infection is believed to be responsible for the deaths of three premature babies at Geisinger Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit. Five other infants also were sickened but four had recovered, while one was still receiving treatment.
The illnesses were caused by the pseudomonas bacteria, according to news reports. While most people can withstand the bacteria, it can be lethal in premature babies and the elderly.
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Geisinger, in Danville, in eastern-central Pennsylvania, was investigating the cause of the infections as were the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The hospital said that since the illnesses occurred it had taken measures to rid the facility of infection and to try to ensure there were no additional cases.
In the meantime, Geisinger diverted infants younger than 32 weeks and mothers who were expected to deliver prematurely to other hospitals. Seven of the eight infants who tested positive for the pseudomonas bacteria were born before 27 weeks.
The bacteria is generally harmless except with babies so young because they do not have well developed immune systems.