Deaths of 3 infants at Pennsylvania hospital linked to waterborne bacterial infection

DANVILLE, Pa. – Officials said a common waterborne bacteria likely caused the deaths of three infants at a neonatal intensive care unit in Pennsylvania.

Doctors at the Geisinger Medical Center near Danville said Monday, Oct. 7 that eight babies had been treated for a pseudomonas bacterial infection in the past two months.

Seven of them were born before the age of 27 weeks.

"Pseudomonas is a very common bacteria," said Dr. Frank Maffei, chair of pediatrics. "It is present in our environment in many different places. It is often very harmless. However, it can cause disease, and it can cause disease in very fragile patients."

Dr. Mark Shelley, director of infection prevention, said they had not found any evidence of the bacteria on surfaces or elsewhere.

Of the five other children sickened by pseudomonas, one was still receiving treatment as of Monday, and four others had recovered.

Hospital officials announced Monday:

"Out of an abundance of caution, we are temporarily diverting mothers likely to deliver prematurely before 32 weeks gestation, and infants born at less than 32 weeks gestation, to other regional institutions in Pennsylvania with appropriate NICU capabilities."

Dr. Maffei said the NICU has been a "cornerstone" of the hospital for the past 25 years, and that they'd never seen anything like the recent infections.

Officials said an investigation would continue into the source of the bacteria.

"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.