Mold in Seattle Children’s Hospital Leaves One Dead and Five Others Sick

Aspergillus fumigatus

Aspergillus fumigatus

All 14 of the hospital's main operating rooms have been closed since May because of the problem, which hospital officials attribute to problems with the air filtration system. Maintaining a safe environment for our patients is our highest priority and over the course of the past six weeks we worked diligently to implement extensive improvements and corrective actions so that we can safely reopen our operating rooms.

The hospital said it is contacting 3,000 patients who had surgery in the four months leading up to the OR closures to warn them to watch out for infection symptoms.

The patient was one of six to develop an infection from 2018-2019, according to Alyse Bernal, public relations manager for the hospital.

"For most patients, the risk is very low that they could get an infection", he said.

Spokesperson Lindsay Kurs added in a subsequent statement, also emailed to CBS News, that Seattle Children's was continuing to "postpone or divert some surgical cases and move others to our Bellevue campus", but noted that doctors were still carrying out operations "in other areas of our hospital that have been determined to be safe for surgical care, like our cardiac catheterization facility".

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.

Bernal wrote in an email earlier that three patients were infected last year and three this year. "We are deeply saddened that one of these patients died".

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No other information about the children and their conditions was released.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said Aspergillus mold can live indoors or outside and that most people breathe it daily without getting sick. Those with weakened immune systems or lung disease, however, are at higher risk of developing aspergillosis, a disease caused by the mold. Health problems can include allergic reactions, lung infections and other organ infections.

The hospital said it is deep cleaning the rooms and replacing equipment for air purification and humidification.

The hospital told the Times that its operating rooms have been infected off and on for "about a year", due to issues with the room's air handling and purification systems. Mold spores floating in the air can get into bodies opened up for surgery, then slowly turn into an infection once the wound is closed, he added.

The Seattle Times first reported the death.

The CDC provided its expertise and "ultimately determined that Children's was taking the right approach to address the situation at that time", Apa wrote to The Post, saying that neither Apa's department nor the CDC produced reports. The operating rooms were initially shut down on May 18, after air tests detected a potentially risky fungus known as Aspergillus.

Six days later, those operating rooms were also closed. The hospital says issues with its air filtering system were likely at fault.

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