On March 26 of this year, a newborn at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) Medical Center tested positive for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a superbug that cannot be treated with conventional antibiotics. According to hospital officials, the baby has since tested negative. However, it was revealed that the infant was one of 10 babies infected with MRSA between August 2016 and March 2017 while being treated in the neonatal intensive care unit.
All of the infants have been successfully treated and none have died, hospital officials said. John Murray, a hospital spokesman, has insisted that the infection was contained to a single unit and that no new uninfected babies have since been admitted to that ward.
The source of the virus has yet to be identified, reported the DailyMail.co.uk. Although all 220 staff members have undergone preemptive measures to kill any potential MRSA bacteria, the outbreak continues. The most recent MRSA case was detected in March and involved four staff members testing positive for the virus; all four have since tested negative.
Of the outbreak among infants, county officials told the LATimes.com that they did not inform the public because they saw no evidence that the infants being treated the neonatal unit (NICU) of the UCI Medical Center were at higher risk than infants admitted anywhere else. “We do not have evidence that infants admitted to UCI’s NICU are at higher risk than infants admitted elsewhere, so a public notification would not serve to prevent or lower the risk of infection transmission [emphasis added],” stated Murray.
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The outbreak only came to light after Marian Hollingsworth, a board member of California’s Healthcare Associated Infection Advisory Committee (HAI-AC), filed a complaint with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
According to Hollingsworth, she became aware of the outbreak in August after a friend who works in the UCI Medical Center complex informed her about it. “I’m a mom of four. I’d be outraged if no one told me. I think hospitals have a lot to learn yet about infection control, and everyone needs to be on it to help prevent it,” Hollingsworth said.
A state inspector visited the UCI Medical Center to investigate the outbreak on March 20, after Hollingsworth filed her complaint. The investigation was completed on April 3 and, in a letter to Hollingsworth, state officials found that the hospital had not broken any state or federal laws. In a statement, Hollingsworth noted that it appeared as though the UCI Medical Center and government officials were attempting to handle the outbreak internally.
Lisa McGiffert, Director of the Consumers Union Safe Patient Project, has commented that these kinds of outbreaks were oftentimes uncovered by the media or discussed in medical journals, but many were kept secret. McGiffer continued by saying that the public had the right to know about all outbreaks, as the disclosure would result in hospitals working harder to prevent any future infection incidents.
This wouldn’t be the first time hospital officials and staff failed to inform patients or the public about what was truly going on behind closed doors. In the same state, doctors attempted to hide the body of a baby who died after receiving eight vaccinations almost all at the same time. There have even been claims that the government has been helping hospitals cover up cases of superbug infections, because “Government authorities are clueless about how many infections there are, or how many patients are dying,” wrote Betsy McCaugher for RealClearPolitics.com. (Related: Read more on hospital- and healthcare-related news by visiting Medicine.news)
It’s like McGiffert told the LATimes.com: “Patients have a right to know.”