A visitor to the neonatal intensive care unit at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is assumed to have brought in the antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria that spread to six babies and six staff members, a hospital official stated on Tuesday.
The hospital started testing the NICU babies and staff on Thursday afternoon after someone came forward and “gave us reason to start the testing,” stated Diane Hupp, the hospital’s chief nursing officer.
She refused to explain more.
None of the babies who tested positive for the bacteria — called MRSA, or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus — has revealed symptoms of infection, Hupp replied.
Hospital officials on Monday declared that six babies in the neonatal intensive care unit and six hospital employees tested positive for MRSA, a type of staph bacteria that’s immune to many of the antibiotics used to treat regular staph infections.
“All of the babies are stable, and none of those babies are showing signs or symptoms of any type of infection,” Hupp said.
One baby was being treated out of an abundance of caution, she stated.
One-third of people carry staph bacteria in their nose or on their skin, and about 2 in 100 will have MRSA without showing symptoms, stated Dr. Kristen Mertz of the Allegheny County Health Department.
“Infrequently, you go on to develop an infection,” she stated.
In this case, the babies tested positive for the bacteria, called colonization, but they do not have any classic symptoms of infection.
A skin infection is the most common type of infection caused by MRSA, Mertz spoke. That generally presents as a red, tender area on the skin that ultimately develops pus, she said.
Most neonatal units test babies for MRSA when they come into the unit.
“A percentage of them are positive when they come in, so there are almost all babies who are colonized with MRSA in the NICU,” she stated. “The challenge is to keep it from spreading to other babies and to stop it from becoming an active infection.”
Babies in the neonatal unit who might already have negotiated health are particularly sensitive to infection, stated. Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and a Pittsburgh-based infectious disease physician.
“Anytime there is an outbreak or a bunch of infections involving neonates, the concern is raised as those patients have less reserve to fight off infections and colonization,” he stated.