Mystery infection kills three babies
A DEADLY superbug has claimed the lives of three babies at a maternity hospital.
A number of expectant mothers were today being transferred to the Republic as medics battle to contain the outbreak at the Belfast hospital.
There are now fears there may be more cases of the pseudomonas infection which claimed the lives of the three babies in the Royal Maternity hospital’s neo-natal unit.
But leading doctors have moved to assure women that there is no fear of an epidemic here.
Terrified expectant mums were today reassured that the neonatal unit has undergone a deep clean and is being sealed off to prevent the spread of the infection.
Babies in need of vital neonatal care are being transferred to other hospitals across Northern Ireland and into the Republic.
The life-threatening bacteria can be carried unknown by healthy individuals, but is particularly harmful to infants who are already ill.
The pseudomonas infection is found in soil, water, plants and animals and it is normally treated with antibiotics.
Over the last 10 days three babies in the neonatal unit died after contacting the infection.
Laboratory tests are underway to identify if it is the same strain of pseudomonas - which is not a common hospital infection.
There are less than 80 cases of the infection seen every year.
Northern Ireland Health Minister Edwin Poots confirmed authorities were making arrangements to move some mothers-to-be.
“We are operating a policy of restricted admission,” a representative for the Belfast Trust said.
“Any baby born in our delivery suite who needs intensive care will get it. But where it is possible, we will transfer the babies out to other hospitals.”
But there are fears that the infection might have already spread to other weak and ill newborns in the unit.
“Every baby in the unit has been screened – they've had swabs taken from their skin looking for any evidence of pseudomonas,” a representative said today.
“The babies are being moved now. We're at the very early stages.
“The results of the swabs will take a number of days.”
Any babies tested and found clear of the infection will now be treated in a different part of the hospital.
Minister Poots said: “This is a serious incident. The priority now is to identify the source of the infection and minimise the risk of spread.”