UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh said on Tuesday afternoon that it was likely a visitor introduced the Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria to its facility, where it spread to six babies in the neonatal intensive care unit.
The hospital said none of the infants with positive MRSA cultures appear to be infected, and all are in stable condition.
“[The babies] are not demonstrating any signs of clinical infection, such as a fever, such as rashes,” said Children’s chief nursing officer Diane Hupp.
MRSA is a somewhat common antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria that’s found on the body. To test “positive” means the bacteria has colonized someone’s skin. Infection occurs when the bacteria enters the body, perhaps through a cut or abrasion, and then makes someone sick.
Hupp said one baby is being treated for MRSA as a precaution. Due to heightened isolation protocols, only parents and guardians are permitted to visit the six infants.
“We are using impeccable hand-washing, gowns and gloves for not only every staff member that goes in and out, and every provider,” said Hupp, “but also the parents and any visitors.”
Six hospital employees have also tested positive for MRSA colonization and are on leave from work. Hupp declined to say whether any of the staff were also infected or symptomatic.
Despite the MRSA cases, the hospital remains open.
“We have taken all the precautions,” Hupp said. “Patient care has not at all been impacted.”
Infectious-disease experts say the fact that the MRSA bacteria has been found in the neonatal unit is particularly concerning.
“[These babies’] immune systems may be under developed or just developing at that time,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious-disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, during a Tuesday morning appearance on WESA’s “The Confluence.”
“They are often hooked up to lots of machinery, so they got a lot of tubes and lines coming in and out of them, which makes infections much more hard to treat because they can stick to some of that material,” he said.
MRSA outbreaks are common in health care facilities, daycares and gyms. To prevention infection, people should keep open cuts covered. Frequent cleaning of surfaces is important.
WESA receives funding from UPMC.