Seattle Children's misidentified mold source for nearly 15 years

Seattle Children's Hospital incorrectly assumed a dirty nitrogen tank was causing a series of mold-related patient infections and deaths at the facility for nearly 15 years, according to The Seattle Times.

Four things to know:

1. In spring 2005, Seattle Children's discovered small amounts of Aspergillus mold in and near an operating room while investigating the source of three infections. An outbreak response team concluded the mold was "unlikely to have caused infection" and instead cited a moldy nitrogen tank as the source. The hospital presented the investigation's results at a conference and published them in the American Journal of Infection Control.

2. That same year, Seattle Children's was hit with a lawsuit that claimed a 12-year-old girl's Aspergillus infection was caused by its air-handling system. After three years, the case settled. Seattle Children's has since apologized to the family, according to The Seattle Times.

3. The system that circulates air through operating rooms is now thought to be the cause of 14 mold infections and six deaths dating back to 2001, Jeff Sperring, MD, Seattle Children's CEO, announced Nov. 18. The hospital plans to install custom in-room high efficiency particulate air filters in 10 operating rooms and two equipment storage rooms by the end of January. 

4. Former hospital employees said they discovered mold and dead birds in the air system as early as 2001, according to court documents cited by The Seattle Times. Seattle Children's carefully investigated each mold-related infection but the results were inconclusive until this year, Lindsay Kurs, a hospital spokesperson, told the publication Nov. 25. 

"We will conduct a rigorous, thorough review of the factors that led to this situation,” Ms. Kurs said, adding that Seattle Children's "will examine our culture, our leadership, and how our teams communicate problems and escalate concerns."

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