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Seattle Children's Hospital operating rooms shut down after a patient dies of mold infection

Posted at 8:40 AM, Jul 03, 2019

A patient at Seattle Children's Hospital has died from a mold infection.

The patient was one of six to develop an infection from 2018-2019, according to Alyse Bernal, public relations manager for the hospital.

The infections follow several operating rooms being shut down in May by the detection of Aspergillus mold in the air. The hospital said that the risk to patients was low, but that it was contacting those who might have been exposed.

The Children's Hospital patient died after developing an Aspergillus infection in 2018, Bernal said. Details about the patient and the case have not been shared for the sake of privacy.

Gaps in air filtration is believed to have been key in the presence of mold, Bernal said. While the hospital works with outside industrial hygienists to clear the rooms of Aspergillus contamination, all 14 of the hospital's main operating rooms remain closed, Bernal said.

"We are systematically implementing improvements and corrective actions, and then retesting the air to validate our efforts have been effective. It is difficult to predict when we will be able to safely resume operations but our patients' safety is our priority and we will reopen our operating rooms when we are confident they are safe for patient care," Bernal said.

Aspergillus is a common mold that most people breathe without getting sick but that poses a greater risk to those with weakened immune systems or lung disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health problems can include allergic reactions, lung infections and other organ infections.

Those who developed infections at the hospital were at an increased risk because of the type of procedure they had, Bernal said.

Mold infections in hospitals have had fatal consequences before.

Mold played a part in five deaths between October 2014 and May 2016 at two University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospitals, according to a 2017 report.

Those patients were exposed to Mucor and Rhizopus mold.

Those who died of the infection were transplant patients. The report showed that both the hospital and the facility that handled the hospital's linens tested positive for mold.