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More Deaths Linked to Mold at Seattle Children’s Hospital

Fungus has been in the hospital’s air since at least 2001

November 26, 2019

Investigations into the fungus Aspergillus found at Seattle Children’s Hospital in Seattle, that led to the closure of operating rooms both this month and July, have revealed the fungus caused six patient deaths in the last 18 years, Infection Control Today reports.

When the hospital first closed its operating rooms in the summer after an Aspergillus outbreak in May, hospital officials announced the outbreak caused at least five infections and one death. But further investigation found the air in the hospital was still contaminated this fall, leading hospital authorities to close the operating rooms a second time. They determined that Aspergillus has been in the air since at least 2001 and was responsible for five additional deaths.

At the time of the earlier deaths, hospital officials believed they were due to isolated infections. They now believe these infections were likely caused by the air filtration system serving the hospital’s operating rooms.

Aspergillus is commonly found in the environment and does not sicken most people. However, those with weakened immune systems, damaged lungs, or asthma are more likely to get sick after breathing in the mold. Health problems linked to the fungus include allergic reactions and lung infections.

Most of the operating rooms at the hospital’s main campus will remain closed until the end of January to allow maintenance crews to install high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in each one. These filters provide the highest level of filtration currently found in hospital operating rooms.

Fortunately, Aspergillus outbreaks are rare, but other airborne contaminants can lead to illnesses and absenteeism in facilities. Learn the benefits of improving your building’s indoor air quality.

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