Bacterium came from water system, Prince George’s Co., hospital says

CHEVERLY, Md. — Officials with Prince George’s County Hospital Center said they believe a potentially dangerous bacteria entered the hospital through its water supply, but those officials also said Friday the hospital’s water is safe to drink.

Water tests found the Pseudomonas bacterium in four sinks in the neonatal intensive care unit, and two more sinks in another area of the hospital, officials said at a news conference.

The bacterium was first discovered in the hospital on Aug. 9.

The NICU, which closed earlier this month, is expected to remain closed until late August or early September.

“We are working very closely with a team of experts to make sure that the NICU is completely safe before we return to full operations,” said Neil Moore, president and CEO of Dimensions Healthcare.

Meanwhile, leaders said the hospital’s water is safe to drink, and tests show incoming water meets safety standards.

Special water treatment and filtering that’s already underway in two parts of the hospital, will be expanded to the entire hospital in the next one to two weeks, officials said.

The hospital is also moving forward with long-term, permanent solutions to keep its water clean.

“(With) the remediation plan that is suggested, when it is complete, I can confidently say that I think that this hospital water will be safer than most in the country,” said Dr. Anthony Harris, an infectious disease physician and professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

After the bacteria was discovered, nine babies were transferred out of the NICU to Children’s National Medical Center as a precaution.

Of those babies, three have shown signs they were exposed to the bacteria, but none is infected with it, doctors say.

Seven babies that spent time in the hospital’s NICU in 2016 eventually died, said Dr. Sherry Perkins, Dimensions Healthcare’s executive vice president and COO.

“Our epidemiologists and neonatal experts continue to investigate any links between the deaths of any babies and the presence of Pseudomonas in our water supply, and we don’t have the answers to that yet,” she added.

Pseudomonas infections typically strike people with weakened immune systems or those who have just had surgery.

Those who get it can become very sick and even die, but Harris emphasized that the discovery of the bacteria at Prince George’s Hospital Center was not that unusual.

“In every hospital in the United States, there are pseudomonas infections that occur routinely in adults,” he said.

Pseudomonas infections are typically treated with antibiotics, but increasing resistance to antibiotics mean infections can become tougher to treat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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