E.coli O157 & Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome

Swansea neonatal unit reopens after E.coli deaths

14th December 2011

A neonatal unit at Singleton Hospital, in Swansea, closed after a strain of E.coli killed two premature babies, has been fully reopened. Restrictions preventing the unit from accepting babies born earlier than 36-weeks gestation, was lifted today. It comes after tests have found no evidence of any further cross-contamination of the ESBL strain of E.coli on the unit.

The unit was closed last month after it emerged a very premature baby had contracted the infection while on the unit and had sadly died. The case is linked to a further three cases of ESBL E.coli one of these cases was another premature baby who subsequently died which were contracted outside the hospital.

Dr Bruce Ferguson, medical director of Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, which runs Singleton Hospital, said: Over the past couple of weeks the neonatal unit was restricted to older pre-term babies as a precaution while tests of patients, equipment and the environment in the maternity/neonatal unit were underway. With the exception of the premature baby, none of the patient tests revealed evidence of further cross infection. In addition, over 120 swabs were taken of equipment and the environment in the maternity/neonatal unit and none tested positive for ESBL E.coli. The unit has an excellent record for hand-hygiene and general infection control adherence. Spot check audits of hand washing reported 100% compliance, and reported infection levels in the unit have been below the national average in recent years.

It would appear than investigations into the cross infection have not shown any evidence of how the ESBL E.coli was transmitted to the baby.

The maternity unit has remained open as normal for full-term births during the investigation, and the vast majority of mothers continued to attend the unit as planned to have their babies.

The health board confirmed that the next steps would be to conclude the internal investigation and implement any further actions to improve the infection control practices still further.

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