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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 October 2007, 15:08 GMT 16:08 UK
Baby unit shut over MRSA outbreak
Royal Blackburn Hospital (Pic from East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust)
Babies are being routinely tested at the hospital
A hospital in Lancashire has closed its neonatal unit after six babies tested positive for a strain of MRSA.

The East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust has said that none of the affected babies at the Royal Blackburn Hospital are seriously ill.

Those being treated for the Panton-Valentine Leukocidin (PVL) bug are being kept in separate areas.

"Everything is being done to eradicate this strain of MRSA from the unit," the trust said.

The trust has confirmed that the mother of one of the babies is also being treated on one of their wards, although they said patient confidentiality meant they could not say what she was being treated for.

A spokesman said there were six babies that tested positive for the bug - five had the bacteria on the surface of their skin and one had an MRSA bloodstream infection.

The unit was shut when the infection was first identified in mid-September, but the closure has only just been made public.

We did not want to raise alarm or concern within the community
Rineke Schram, East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust

Rineke Schram, medical director at the trust, said babies were being screened to see if they are carrying MRSA on their skin.

She said: "The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit will be reopened once we are sure that all the babies are returning a negative result when they are screened for carrying the MRSA organism on their skin.

"We are confident this will be as soon as possible but we are unable to say exactly when that will be.

"However, as there have been no new outbreaks and the small number of babies affected is getting even smaller by the day, the NICU unit have done an excellent job in keeping the incident contained."

'Worrying time'

Mrs Schram said she understood this was a worrying time for people who had spent time on the ward.

She said anyone who had any concerns should contact the hospital for advice.

Defending the fact that the closures had only just been made public, she said the trust did not want to cause alarm.

"The particular strain of MRSA in the unit has only just been identified and until we were in possession of all the facts we did not want to raise alarm or concern within the community," she said.

Royal Blackburn Hospital
Anyone with any concerns should contact the hospital for advice

"It was also very important we spoke to the parents of the babies first, to keep them up to date.

She said the hospital would not accept any new babies onto the unit until doctors and nurses were satisfied that there was no risk and the unit was clear of MRSA.

Microbiology laboratories across the UK have been asked to be vigilant and have been requested to send any suspicious samples of PVL for further analysis.

The strain can cause cellulitis (inflammation of layers under the skin) and pus-producing skin infections such as abscesses, boils and carbuncles.

They can, on very rare occasions, lead to more severe invasive infections, such as septic arthritis, blood poisoning and pneumonia.

There have been seven deaths in England and Wales associated with the PVL strain of MRSA over the last two years, including two at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent.

Royal Blackburn Hospital criticised over MRSA outbreak

Fourteen MRSA cases at hospital
22 Dec 06 |  Staffordshire
MRSA found at new neonatal unit
23 Aug 06 |  Lancashire
Quick guide: MRSA
24 Jul 06 |  Health

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