Mold in Seattle Children’s Hospital Kills 1, Infects 5

One of the nation’s 10 best children’s hospitals, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

By Katelyn Newman, US News.

A Dangerous type of mold has killed one patient and infected five more at Seattle Children’s Hospital, the health center announced Tuesday, prompting it to close all 14 of its operating rooms indefinitely.

The hospital closed four operating rooms on its main campus on May 18 and 10 more on May 24 after air testing revealed Aspergillus mold. The hospital told the Seattle Times that its operating rooms have been infected with the mold off and on for a year or so, “likely because of deficiencies in the operating rooms’ air handling and purification systems,” the Times reports.

Three of the patients were infected in 2018, and three infected this year. The patient who died had contracted the infection in 2018, Seattle Children’s Hospital Public Relations Manager Alyse Bernal wrote in an email to the Times.

“The six patients who developed Aspergillus infections were at higher risk of infection due to the types of procedures they had,” Bernal wrote. “We are deeply saddened that one of these patients died.”

About 1,000 surgeries have been postponed as a result of the closures, the Times reports, though some have been moved to other facilities owned by the hospital and others transferred to Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical Center, Swedish Medical Center and Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma.

Aspergillus mold lives both indoors and outdoors, and most people breathe in the mold every day without getting sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, those with weakened immune systems or lung diseases are more at risk of developing mold-related health problems. Symptoms of invasive aspergillosis, a variation of the infection, in the lungs include fever, chest pain, cough, shortness of breath and coughing up blood.

An investigation by the hospital conducted in May found gaps in the hospital’s air-filtration system, Bernal told the Times, which may have caused the air quality issue and resulting in six infections. In May, the hospital contacted about 3,000 patients who had surgery in the four months before the mid-May closures and asked them to watch for infection symptoms

The hospital first detected the mold in two operating rooms and a storage room in June 2018. The hospital is working with outside industrial hygienists to clear the rooms of the mold contamination, CNN reports.

“We are systematically implementing improvements and corrective actions, and then retesting the air to validate our efforts have been effective,” Bernal told CNN. “It is difficult to predict when we will be able to safely resume operations but our patients’ safety is our priority and we will reopen our operating rooms when we are confident they are safe for patient care.”

July 03, 2019

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