Geisinger Medical Center NICU Update
The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville recently experienced an increase in cases of pseudomonas infection, a common bacterium, among premature infants. While HIPAA regulations limit what we can disclose about individual cases, all were confined to Geisinger’s NICU in Danville. In total, eight infants confined specifically to the Geisinger Medical Center NICU were treated for a pseudomonas infection. Four of these infants have been successfully treated and are doing well; one of these infants continues to receive antibiotic treatment for the infection and is responding positively; and, sadly, the other three infants have passed away, which may have been a result of the infection complicating their already vulnerable state due to extreme prematurity. We express our deepest sympathies and provide our full support to the families and loved ones who have been affected.
We continue to work closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate and ensure that proactive measures already taken have eradicated the bacteria as well as prevent any additional cases.
Out of an abundance of caution, the obstetrics and neonatal teams at Geisinger Medical Center are temporarily diverting mothers likely to deliver prematurely before 32 weeks gestation, and infants born at less than 32 weeks gestation, to other regional institutions in Pennsylvania with appropriate NICU capabilities. We will continue our meticulous and comprehensive infection control practices to reduce the risk of any infection in any infant, and we remain committed to providing the highest level of family-centered neonatal care for our families and babies.
Q: What are you doing about this issue?
A: As we collaborate with the Department of Health (DOH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to investigate the source of the infection, the neonatal intensive care unit at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville will refer mothers who may be delivering infants less than 32 weeks gestation to a different location.
Q: Is there a similar infection issue with babies in Geisinger’s other neonatal intensive care units at Geisinger Wyoming Valley and Geisinger Holy Spirit?
A: No. This issue is contained to the neonatal intensive care unit at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.
Q: What is a pseudomonas infection?
A: Pseudomonas infection is an infection caused by the pseudomonas bacteria. Pseudomonas bacteria is present throughout the environment and grows in water. In many cases, the immune system can withstand the bacteria without symptoms. In fragile individuals such as premature infants or the elderly, the resulting infection can cause significant illness.
Q. Is the water supply at GMC safe?
A: We’d like to assure the public that there is no danger from the water source at Geisinger Medical Center (GMC). It’s important to note that pseudomonas is present in natural environments and only poses a risk to those whose immune systems are severely compromised. The cases of pseudomonas in the neonatal intensive care unit occurred in extremely premature infants who are considered severely immune compromised.
Cultures taken from tap water in our neonatal intensive care unit and throughout GMC have shown no evidence of pseudomonas contamination.
The investigation into the source of the pseudomonas bacteria continues, but at this time there is no reason to believe that any incoming water source is the origin of the bacteria nor that any incoming water at GMC poses a risk to the general public.
Q: How many total cases were detected?
A: In total, eight infants confined specifically to the Geisinger Medical Center NICU were treated for a pseudomonas infection. Four of these infants have been successfully treated and are doing well; one of these infants continues to receive antibiotic treatment for the infection and is responding positively; and, sadly, the other three infants have passed away, which may have been a result of the infection, complicating their already vulnerable state due to extreme prematurity.
Q: Have we identified the source of the problem?
A: At this time, the source of the bacteria has not been conclusively determined. What we do know based on our testing is that the source of the bacteria is not coming from within the NICU itself.
However, we did not wait before acting. Instead, we have already instituted comprehensive and aggressive measures to eradicate harmful bacteria from being present in our neonatal unit or from entering the neonatal intensive care unit. Because of these proactive measures, it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact source.
Q: Is the infection contagious?
A: Pseudomonas is spread through contact with the bacteria, but only causes disease or infection when a person’s immune system is already impaired.
Q: How quickly did Geisinger respond and what did you do?
A: As soon as we identified the pseudomonas bacteria in one of our preterm infants, our neonatal intensive care unit staff and infection control team began an extensive investigation and simultaneously expanded control measures using with Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and Centers for Disease Control best practice guidelines. When a second patient was found to have tested positive for pseudomonas bacterium, we immediately engaged with the DOH.