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Two more premature infants die in bacterial outbreak at New Jersey hospital

Two more premature infants have died at a New Jersey hospital after they contracted a bacterial infection.

According to the state Department of Health, the infants became infected at University Hospital in Newark and died last week, but officials were not notified of the deaths until Monday.

This brings the total number of deaths up to three after four babies in the NICU contracted Acinetobacter baumanii, a hospital-acquired infection.

The news comes just one month after inspectors found ‘major infection control deficiencies’ at the hospital related to ‘hand hygiene and cleanliness’.   

Two more premature infants have died at University Hospital (pictured) in Newark, New Jersey, after acquiring a bacterial infection, bringing the total number of deaths up to three

Acinetobacter baumannii is an opportunistic bacterium, meaning it takes advantage of hosts with weakened immune systems or altered microbiota.

A healthy host with a normal immune system will not experience illness if infected with the bacterium. 

Premature babies, who have weaker immune systems than full-term babies, are at a greater risk when it comes to infections.

During the last stages of pregnancy, antibodies from the mother’s body travel through the placenta and umbilical cord to the baby.

But a premature baby may be born before this stage and therefore is born without any protective antibodies.

The department said the two infants had other medical conditions associated with their premature birth, meaning the bacterial infection may not be the cause of death. 

Four infants in total were exposed to Acinetobacter baumannii, with the first child dying in late September.

The baby who survived was discharged last month, the health department said.   

According to the hospital there have been no new cases in the NICU since October.  

‘We have worked diligently since the Acinetobacter baumannii bacteria was discovered in our neonatal intensive care unit to control the outbreak,’ a statement from the hospital read. 

‘We continue to reinforce proper procedures and protocols with our team.’ 

The health department said an inspection team is on-site investigating the hospital’s policies after learning that University’s own infection control program was not informed of the two new deaths.

‘A Department survey team is on-site today to investigate the hospital’s internal notification policies, governance, and other factors that relate to reporting of deaths of cases during an ongoing outbreak,’ the department stated. 

However, government officials are now calling for new senior staff and board members at the hospital.  

‘The deaths of three premature infants with an Acinetobacter bacteria and the infection of a fourth, all cared for at University Hospital, are stark reminders that an overhaul of the quality of care and the leadership of the hospital is urgently needed,’ said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka in a statement.

‘The infants had a variety of other medical conditions, but the fact remains that they contracted the bacteria in the hospital’s neonatal ICU.’

Last month, New Jersey Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal ordered University Hospital to hire a full-time certified infection control practitioner after a department inspection found ‘major infection control deficiencies’.

The Directed Plan of Correction specifically cited issues with ‘ hand hygiene, personal protective equipment and cleanliness’.

The outbreak at University Hospital is the latest in a series of unrelated viral outbreaks in New Jersey this year.

At the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, 11 children died after being infected with adenovirus.

And at the Voorhees Pediatric Facility, 13 children were confirmed to have contracted a milder strain adenovirus, but no deaths resulted from that outbreak.




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