Three babies infected with MSSA in Altnagelvin 'stable'

Dr Anne Kilgallen has called on the public not to worry about the infection

Three babies infected with MSSA in Altnagelvin's neonatal intensive care unit are said to be 'stable'.

The Western Trust said the children's parents did not want any more information released.

A deep clean is being carried out at the unit in Londonderry after the babies were diagnosed with a bloodstream infection.

The MSSA (methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus) infection occurs on the skin of babies and adults.

It is carried by most people without ill effects but poses a potential risk to a small number.

What is MSSA?

  • MSSA is caused by the same species of bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, as the feared hospital superbug MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).
  • It causes exactly the same complications.
  • However, it should be easier to treat as it is "sensitive" rather than "resistant" to the methicillin class of antibiotics.

The unit is open, but it is not receiving transfers from other trusts. Four other babies who were in the ward until Tuesday are not believed to be affected.

The Western Health Trust said data protection rules meant it could not comment on the condition of the babies.

In a statement, the Western Health Trust's medical director, Dr Anne Kilgallen, said three babies had been diagnosed with an MSSA bloodstream infection since May.

"MSSA bloodstream infection occurs from time to time, however, it is unusual to have a cluster of three infections," she said.

"Early indications are that the same type of organism is involved in each case."

She said robust infection prevention and control measures had been put in place, including a thorough deep clean and decontamination process using 'vaporised hydrogen peroxide' (VHP) that allows staff to sterilise spaces and rooms.

"The single feature of this organism is that it is very responsive to standard antibiotic treatment and that's a good thing," Dr Kilgallen said.

"It is common, it's very familiar to clinical staff and it is very responsive to treatment, however any infection occurring in a very small premature baby is obviously a complication and the baby's response does depend on a range of factors and conditions that they may be subject to."

The director said the unit's staff were "very expert" in terms of infection control and had redoubled their efforts.

"We've also moved to treat individual babies to make sure the infection is removed from the skin," she said.

"I'm confident that we've taken every measure known to us to contain the situation. We're being very vigilant and we have very robust measures in place."

The trust said it would be working with the Public Health Agency to monitor the situation.

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