Seattle Children's Hospital says fungus killed 1, infected 5 more

Grant Boone
July 4, 2019

Seattle Children's Hospital in Washington revealed on Tuesday that a patient died and five others were infected by a unsafe mold. Since then, the hospital has upgraded its air handler, installed a new humidification system and sealed potential air leaks in its operating rooms, according to hospital spokeswoman Alyse Bernal.

Bernal said those who became ill were more susceptible to infection due to the procedures they had done at the hospital.

One died because of it.

The hospital spokesperson said operating rooms will not reopen until officials are confident they are safe. He thinks the hospital may be able to determine a reopening date this week.

Around 1,000 surgeries have been rescheduled or moved, and the hospital said the families of thousands of children who had recently undergone procedures were being contacted.

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. But people with lung disease or weakened immune systems, and especially organ or stem-cell-transplant patients, are at higher risk of developing aspergillosis, a disease caused by the mold. Swedish said it is still working to determine how many surgeries it can take on.

"We are very sorry for the result of the air quality issue in our operating rooms has had on our patients and families".

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All 14 main operating rooms have been investigated and are now free of Aspergillus fungus, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mark Del Beccaro stated during a press conference on Wednesday. In May, representatives from the hospital told KIRO Radio that the risk to patients from the mold was "very low".

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.

According to a statement released by the hospital, the patients are not at risk of this infection.

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. In mid-May, it was detected in four operating rooms and some equipment-storage rooms during a routine check, Bernal said.

After the hospital closed the four operating rooms May 18, some "urgent and less invasive procedures" were performed in the remaining 10 operating rooms, Bernal wrote in an email to The Times Tuesday. The hospital says issues with its air filtering system were likely at fault.

After the Aspergillus was found, Children's closed a group of rooms and shifted patients to nearby hospitals.

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