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Bacteria Found in Neonatal Unit at P.G. Hospital

Nine babies at Prince George’s Hospital Center have been transferred to Children’s Hospital in D.C. after officials determined three of them are infected with potentially deadly bacteria.

Two babies recently died at the Cheverly hospital, but Chief Medical Officer Cecil Cooper said those deaths are unrelated to the bacteria outbreak.

“There have been no clear deaths associated with these infections,” Cooper said Tuesday outside the hospital.

Cooper said babies resided in the neonatal intensive care unit, which provides care for infants born prematurely or suffering from serious illnesses.

Dimensions Healthcare System, which oversees the 70-plus-year-old hospital, said the bacteria in question, Pseudomonas, can be found in the environment. The most common type found in humans is called Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that Pseudomonas “usually occur in people in the hospital and/or with weakend immune systems. Infections of the blood, pneumonia and infections following surgery can lead to severe illness and death in these people.”

Dimensions spokeswoman Delores Butler said the hospital “is acting out of an abundance of caution in the best interest of our most vulnerable patient population.”

“We have been monitoring all NICU patients very closely for several days,” Butler said. “The positive patient culture results are limited to the NICU at this time. While the investigation into the positive bacterium cultures is ongoing by qualified experts, our top immediate priority is the safe and efficient transfer of patients and providing support to our NICU families and staff.”

Dimensions did not specify when the babies died, or when the neonatal unit will reopen. However, officials said water was shut off in the unit since discovering the bacteria.

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission said in a statement posted on its website Tuesday that it collected a water sample near the hospital on Aug. 3.

The commission doesn’t specifically test for Pseudomonas, but found the water sample’s chlorine residual to be “within the required regulations.”

“There were no coliform bacteria detected in any of the WSSC samples,” the statement said. “In its 98-year history, WSSC has never had a drinking water quality violation.”

County Executive Rushern L. Baker III offered his support to the hospital and Dimensions.

“The precaution of moving the nine infants that were in the NICU to other hospitals while this situation is investigated and resolved is prudent,” he said in an issued statement. “I am confident that the health care professionals who are handling this matter, which I understand is fairly common in hospitals, will ensure that the health and welfare of the hospital’s patients is not compromised.”

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