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'The Babies Are All Stable:' UPMC Children's Hospital Treating MRSA Cases In NICU

LAWRENCEVILLE (KDKA) -- Inside UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh tonight, there are about 50 babies in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit, and six have tested positive for MRSA.

The hospital's Chief Nursing Officer Diane Hupp, registered nurse, says, "They are not demonstrating any signs of clinical infection such as fever, such as rashes. The babies are all stable."

By definition, MRSA is a bacterial infection that is resistant to the 'sillin' antibiotics. However, there are other antibiotics that work and Hupp says, "There is one baby we are treating as a precaution."

Kristen Mertz, MD, an infectious disease specialist from the Allegheny County Health Department, says all babies are tested for MRSA when they are admitted and, "a percentage of them are positive when they come in. So there almost always babies that are colonized with MRSA in a NICU. The challenge is to keep it from spreading to other infants and to prevent it from becoming an active infection."

Hupp says with six positives out of 50 babies, the NICU staff at Children's has ramped up its efforts. "These babies are in contact isolation, whereby we are using impeccable hand washing gowns and gloves. Not only every staff member that goes in and out, but also the parents and any visitors."

For now, visitation has been restricted to parents and caregivers only.


While the Health Department was notified of the problem last Friday, Dr. Mertz says there was no reason to inform the general public.  "We didn't feel like there was any general threat to the public."

In fact, the medical experts say the issue has been confined to the NICU. Employees who work on the unit have been asked to come forward with any skin abnormalities to be checked out.

Hupp says, "We want to take the extra cautions, even though these could be bug bites or an ingrown hair, we still want the employees to come forth to have them assessed and treated if necessary."

So far, six employees have tested positive for MRSA. They are being treated and have been told to stay home until their tests are clear.

The hospital says it has identified a visitor who it believes brought the MRSA into the NICU but declined any further comment on that visitor, other than to say it was not a family member.

Mertz says because some babies could have come into the NICU with MRSA already, further tests are being done on the MRSA that has been found to see if it all comes from the same strain of the bacteria and whether all the cases are related.

The experts say there is no way to establish a timetable of when the Children's NICU will be clear. Until then, the stepped-up precautions will continue.

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