ORANGE (AP) — Dangerous bacteria infected 10 infants in a neonatal intensive care unit at a California hospital over a span of eight months, a newspaper reported.
None of the infants died and UC Irvine Medical Center officials have not found the source of the infections by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA, the Los Angeles Times said Thursday.
The hospital said the last positive test for MRSA in a newborn at UCI was on March 26 and that baby has since tested negative.
The medical center confirmed the outbreak to the Times after the newspaper learned of it from Marian Hollingsworth, a member of a state advisory committee that deals with hospital-acquired infections. She learned of it from a friend at UCI and complained to the state.
Hospital officials asserted they aggressively worked to prevent more infections and it wasn’t necessary to notify families preparing for deliveries at UCI because infected patients were isolated in one of its two neonatal intensive care units and new patients were only accepted into the other one.
In addition, they said 220 employees used antiseptic soap and ointment to eliminate bacteria on their skin and in their noses.
“Our rapid response came the minute we saw the strains were the same,” said Susan Huang, director of epidemiology and infection prevention at the medical center.
Initially, hospital personnel were instructed to disclose the MRSA infections to parents as their babies were being tested or treated for the infections, but since last month the outbreak has been disclosed in a letter to parents of all infants in intensive care, Huang said.
Orange County health officials learned of the infections in the middle of December, when tests showed that five infants were infected by the same strain of bacteria. Two other babies were infected that month, another tested positive in late February, followed by two more in March.
County officials said they did not notify the public because there wasn’t any evidence that infants treated at the UCI neonatal unit were at higher risk than infants admitted to other hospitals, the Times reported.
UCI said it notified the state about the infections by letter in early January, but state officials said they never got the letter.
The state sent an inspector to the medical center on March 20 in response to Hollingsworth’s complaint, then notified her by letter that the investigation was completed on April 3 and found that the hospital had not violated any federal or state laws.
Four hospital employees who tested positive for the same strain of MRSA in January have since tested negative after using the antiseptic soap, and cleaning and use of protective clothing in the unit continues, said spokesman John Murray
“Our goal is to ensure the safety of our patients and eradicate the presence of any drug-resistant bacteria in our neonatal intensive care unit,” he said.