What you need to know about the deadly bacteria
1. What is pseudomonas?
It's a bacteria or germ that belongs to a family of bacteria known as the "pseudomonads". The pseudomonads are very common bacteria that are usually found in water, soil and on plants. Most are harmless to people, but some, such as pseudomonas aeruginosa, can occasionally cause infections in people, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
2. Why has it caused such problems?
Dr Richard Wright, associate medical director at the Belfast Health Trust, explained that the bacterium may be present and cause no problems at all. But when it gets into the bloodstream or affects babies who are vulnerable for other reasons -- in the Belfast hospital because they were particularly premature -- or have other complicated medical conditions, it can be very serious indeed.
3. Aren't outbreaks rare?
Yes, but they can occur in hospitals. When outbreaks do occur they are often linked to a contaminated source of water or other liquid. The source of the outbreak in the Belfast hospital is not yet confirmed, but it is hoped specimen results sent to labs for analysis will provide the answers.
4. So should pregnant women be worried?
It's important to remember that such an outbreak is very rare, and reassurance has been provided by the experts. The HSE says that all hospitals in the Republic have standard systems in place to detect clusters of any infection, including pseudomonas aeruginosa.
5. How are pseudomonas infections diagnosed?
The HPSC says they are diagnosed by taking a sample from the body site where the infection is found and looking for the presence of pseudomonas in a lab.
6. How are they treated
They can be treated with antibiotics. In the vast majority of cases there are effective antibiotics that work once the problem has been identified. In this case there are a good range of antibiotics that should be effective.