As reported this morning the NICU in Toronto was closed due to an infection outbreak. Not much information was available at that time about the particulars of the infection or how many babies were effected.
Here is what was reported this afternoon:
Four other infants have tested positive for serratia but are showing no signs of sickness. They have been isolated, are being closely watched and tests are under way to see if they all suffer from the same strain.
Until the babies are clear of the bacteria, the level 3 neonatal unit will try not to accept any infants, said Dr. Allison McGeer, Sinai’s director of infection control.
“Four babies are colonized with it but they are not sick,” she said.
While the level 3 neonatal unit remains closed, Sunnybrook’s NICU — located in Women’s College Hospital — and the Hospital for Sick Children will handle the patient overflow. Expectant moms who are experiencing high risk pregnancies may also be transferred to Kingston, Ottawa or Hamilton if space becomes a problem in Toronto.
Sick Kids can only accommodate babies and not birthing mothers. If none has the capacity, mothers could be sent to Buffalo for care.
It’s been about four years since Sinai’s nursery has seen a death due to serratia, McGeer said.
Serratia causes fever and a drop in blood pressure that causes a lack of blood flow to organs. “We don’t know how the baby acquired the infection,” said McGeer, who added that is now the subject of an investigation. However, the bacteria can be transferred by touch.
The 30-year-old unit has a problem with overcrowding, which makes infection control more of a challenge. There is about 60 square feet of space for each neonatal intensive care bed in the level 3 unit and by today’s standard, that should be about 150 square feet.
Mount Sinai is currently set to begin construction of a new neonatal unit in June, part of a $150 million capital project.