Health Care

1 dead, 5 ill from unsafe mold in Seattle Children’s operating rooms

1 dead, 5 ill from unsafe mold in Seattle Children’s operating rooms”

Six patients at Seattle Children's Hospital developed infections from mold in the facility since the beginning of 2018.

The infestation, a hospital spokesperson said in a statement to CBS News, is likely due to "deficiencies in our air handlers, including gaps in the air filtration system that we believe to be key contributing factors to the air quality issue".

A public relations manager for the hospital said three patients were infected because of the mold last year, and three were infected this year.

The hospital closed four operating rooms on May 18 and the other 10 on May 24 due to Aspergillus mold, but the revelations of the ill patients come in response to follow-up questions from The Seattle Times, which broke the story.

"We will reopen our operating rooms when it is safe to do so", Bernal wrote in an email.

About 1,000 surgeries have been postponed as a result of the closures, the Times reports, though some have been moved to other facilities owned by the hospital and others transferred to Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical Center, Swedish Medical Center and Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma.

Seattle Children's Hospital closed several operating rooms and is contacting the families of about 3,000 children who've had recent procedures after a common type of mold was detected over the weekend, officials said.

Most people can breathe the fungus behind the infections, called Aspergillus, without health issues, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those with weakened immune systems or lung disease, however, are at higher risk of developing aspergillosis, a disease caused by the mold.

"Both hospitals are working with Seattle Children's to make sure that they do what they can do to help them", Mankowski said.

The operating rooms were initially shut down on May 18, after air tests detected a potentially risky fungus known as Aspergillus. The mold can cause allergic reactions and infections in the lungs and other organs. The Times said the fungus was first discovered a year ago, but hospital officials thought cleaning had cleared up the problem. In May, representatives from the hospital told KIRO Radio that the risk to patients from the mold was "very low".

The hospital traced the issue to a few rooms, cleaning them, sealing potential air leaks and in some cases remodeling to minimize the chances for spores to enter, he said.

But the mold returned in 2019.

After the hospital closed the four operating rooms May 18, some "urgent and less invasive procedures" were performed in the remaining 10 operating rooms, Bernal wrote in an email to The Times Tuesday. Bernal said the additional closures were needed so crews could access and fix the hospital's air system.

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