Aspergillus Spreading Through Seattle Childrens’ Five deaths linked to mold infections since 2001
A hospital is a place where people should heal and get better, but unfortunately, a situation at Seattle Children’s Hospital is causing harm. The hospital has had complaints about the cleanliness of their ventilation system for many years, an ongoing problem since 2001 which they are working hard to solve.
Dr. Jeff Sperring, the hospital’s CEO said, “at the time, we believed most of these were isolated infections.” Later he added, “however, we now believe that these infections were likely caused by the air handling systems that serve our operating rooms.” It has been revealed that the infections were caused by a mold called Aspergillus and has led to five deaths since 2001 as well as infecting multiple others patients.
Sperring commented on the situation by saying that it is a “heartbreaking time for all of us at Seattle Children’s.” He said that, “patients, families and the community rely on us to provide safe, quality care,” adding, “We’ve let them down.”
The major problem here is that the mold is in a hospital setting. Healthy people are very unlikely to get sick from Aspergillus because mold particles exist almost everywhere. The problem is that the sick children at the hospital can have weak immune systems and the mold can be very dangerous to them. Symptoms of breathing in the mold can include fevers, shortness of breath, headaches, and even coughing up blood. In most cases, when someone is healthy, the cells in their immune system destroy the invasive infection, but sick patients are too weak to fight off the infection and the Aspergillus can take over the lungs and even spread to other parts of the body.
In response to the incident, Seattle Children’s is adding air handlers, as well as custom-built high-efficiency particulate air filters to the building to ensure safety for their patients. These new filters are very effective and remove 99.97% of air particles. Ten of the hospital’s operating rooms will be closed through January while the systems are installed, so they will be using other hospitals in the Seattle area to perform surgeries in the next few weeks.
“We have had too many of these infections and so that’s why my sole focus, what we are working on, is to make sure that we do everything we can to eliminate exposure,” Sperring said. Hopefully, the efforts the hospital is making to remove the mold will pay off and the facility will be a safer place for sick patients to get better.