CHOP sued after 23 infants contract, 1 dies from eye infection in 2016 sterilization breach

At least one infant died after contracting a viral eye infection while in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in the fall of 2016, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this month, The Inquirer reports.

Here are five things to know:

1. Melanie Sanders was born in May 2016 and was diagnosed with retinopathy of prematurity, or an abnormal growth of blood vessels on the retina. She was transferred to CHOP two months later and underwent a series of eye exams. Melanie began suffering respiratory symptoms in mid-August and tested positive for adenovirus. She developed a bacterial infection on top of the virus and died in September 2016, the lawsuit states.

2. The lawsuit, filed by a lawyer on behalf of Melanie's parents, accuses CHOP providers of negligence and of failing to use proper hygiene. The lawsuit was initially filed in December 2017, but amended earlier this month after officials learned of at least one additional patient death. The family's lawyer said he was still investigating the  role of adenovirus in the second infant's death.

3. At least 23 infants in CHOP's NICU contracted viral infections stemming from the same sterilization breach in 2016. The figure represented more than half of the 43 infants who underwent eye exams in the NICU during the same period, the hospital wrote in a four-paragraph report in the June 2017 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control. All 23 patients suffered respiratory symptoms, and five went on to develop pneumonia. Eleven of the 23 infants experienced infectious symptoms in their eyes. Six hospital employees and three parents also contracted viral infections, according to the case study. The case study did not mention patient deaths.

4. CHOP responded to the incident by reinforcing the importance of handwashing, stepping up its equipment cleaning and instituting a "staff furlough," the case study states. In its response filed with the Pennsylvania Common Pleas Court, CHOP denied that the infection led to Melanie's death, arguing the survival rate of such premature infants is uncertain for a plethora of reasons.

5. CHOP declined to comment to The Inquirer about the lawsuit, but said in a prepared statement: "Upon identification of the outbreak, the hospital led a swift and proactive response, informing all at risk and quickly determining the unusual source of the outbreak. Strict infection control procedures, coupled with numerous safety enhancements, were immediately put into place, and no additional cases have since been identified. … The health and safety of our patients and their families remains our foremost priority. The safety measures instituted as the result of this outbreak are currently being widely shared with physicians around the country as a best practice to prevent future outbreaks of adenovirus, ensuring that all children receive the best and safest care possible."

To access the report, click here.

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