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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 February 2008, 15:20 GMT
Baby ward hit by fatal infection
Salford Royal Hospital
The hospital says the ward has closed as a precaution
A hospital has temporarily closed its neo-natal unit to premature babies after a baby died and another suffered a potentially fatal infection.

A pre-term baby developed an infection from aspergillus, a common airborne fungus, and died in December at Salford Royal Hospital, Greater Manchester.

A second pre-term baby tested positive for skin aspergillus last week.

The hospital said it had closed the ward as a precaution to establish any "common contributory factors".

It means the unit is closed to new admissions, although the babies already in the specialist unit will remain there.

ASPERGILLUS
A common airborne fungus
First identified in the 18th Century
Gets into the body through a cut or wound
Treated with antifungal drugs

The aspergillus fungus is very common and can be found in homes and buildings everywhere, but can cause infections.

It is particularly dangerous to those with weakened immune systems.

Dr Michael Robinson, senior consultant neonatologist, said: "Pre-term babies are more susceptible to developing infections because of their immaturity and we continue to do all that we can to reduce these.

"When a second infection occurred within two months of the first, we took further advice and are embarking upon a range of investigations and precautionary measures to ascertain whether there are any common contributory factors.

"As a temporary measure, we have closed the unit to admissions of pre-term babies and are currently monitoring the situation closely."

2011 closure

A hospital spokeswoman said that clinicians in the unit had offered their support to the family of the second infant infected.

Salford Royal's maternity unit remains open as normal.

Acute and specialist services at the hospital - formerly known as Hope Hospital - have been rated as "excellent" by the Health Commission for the past two years.

In January, Salford Royal was named as one of the best performing trusts across England for maternity services.

The neo-natal unit is set to close by 2011 as part of a controversial reorganisation of NHS maternity facilities in Greater Manchester and Cheshire.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Attempts to trace the source of aspergillus at Salford Royal



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