White Memorial Medical Center near downtown Los Angeles has shut its neonatal and pediatric intensive care units to new admissions after identifying an outbreak of a potentially fatal bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Seven children are believed to be infected with the virulent bacterium; one of these, an infant, died.
White Memorial officials have disclosed the cause of the outbreak as improper cleaning of laryngoscope blade of an instrument called a laryngoscope used to inspect an infant's larynx.
P. aeruginosa is a common bacterium found in water and soil and can spread through body contact, fluids and water. In most people, it is not dangerous, because our immune systems can ward off infection.
But those with weakened immune systems, such as newborns who are premature or critically ill are usually affected.
The bacterium can cause a variety of infections depending on where it enters which include respiratory, urinary tract and blood infections.
After gaining entry it can spread rapidly and cause complications.
New-borns in the neonatal unit are at risk for infections, as they are often connected to ventilators, tubes, monitors and other equipment that give bacteria an easy pathway to the body.
'It's a group of patients that are very vulnerable,' said Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, a medical epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 'They're very sick, so they are at risk of these infections. The care that's delivered for them is very complicated.'