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Children’s Hospital In Philadelphia Facing Lawsuits Following Outbreak Of Infection

Approximately 23 babies in the intensive care unit at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) acquired eye infections after being examined. A facility audit suggested the spread of infection was caused by staff who failed to wear gloves and by inadequate cleaning of the equipment. Exposure to a microbe known as an adenovirus caused many of the children to have respiratory problems and five further developed pneumonia.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that one attorney for a plaintiff who has taken legal action described the hospital’s negligence as “shocking.” Newborn babies (neonates) have an increased vulnerability to these types of infections.

Hospital Response

In addition to respiratory problems, roughly 11 of the children and several employees also developed harmful eye conditions. Following the outbreak, the hospital claims to have taken “a swift and proactive response” to properly locate the source(s) of the problem. The facility has since heightened their infection control protocols including more frequent handwashing and regular cleaning of equipment. A hospital spokesperson affirmed their commitment to the “health and safety of patients . . . our foremost priority.”

Current Lawsuit

Melanie Sanders was a newborn that weighed only 1 pound and 4 ounces when she was transferred to CHOP. Her prematurity caused retinopathy, which is a deformity in the development of blood vessels in the eye. Upon arrival, she underwent several eye examinations and soon developed respiratory problems attributed to an infection caused by the adenovirus. She needed a tube inserted into her chest to allow for proper drainage. Her condition rapidly worsened and she died shortly after. Her family has since filed a lawsuit against the hospital alleging medical negligence.

Source of Infection

Much of the equipment used in these eye examinations were determined to be the source of the infections. Many lenses and scopes contained a type 3 variety of the adenovirus that may cause conjunctivitis and a host of other problems. These conditions can often lead to a rapid spreading of the microbes. The hospital has since begun using more sterile tools, which are usually individually packaged and designed for a single use prior to being disposed of.

Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs)

An HAI is often called a nosocomial or secondary infection that can spread through various healthcare environments. In addition to hospitals, these microorganisms may exist in long-term care facilities, outpatient clinics, physician offices and more. Many of these infections are caused by contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Adenoviruses & Conjunctiva

There are many ways that adenoviruses may spread such as:

  • Touching someone with the virus, such as contact by handshaking
  • Air particles expelled by a cough or sneeze
  • Touching a contaminated surface and then touching eyes, nose, mouth, etc.
  • Through contact with a person’s stool, such as when changing a diaper
  • By contact with infected water, such as in swimming pools

The conjunctiva is a clear lining of the inner eyelid. Conjunctivitis is a somewhat common disease referred to a “pink eye.” The condition may be highly contagious, yet rarely has any prolonged effects.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 

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