A Montreal children’s hospital is awaiting the result of tests that will identify the type of mould infection believed to have killed a premature baby in its intensive care unit.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Sainte-Justine hospital confirmed that a baby born at 29 weeks died in the neonatal unit 10 days later of an infectious disease caused by “a kind of fungus.”
According to Montreal Public Health epidemiologist Norman King, the first phase of the investigation now underway at the hospital is aimed at pinpointing the kind of fungus in question.
“The first step is to identify the type of mould involved, then they have to do air testing to see if the mould that was involved can be found in the air,” King told CTV’s Canada AM Wednesday morning, adding that “no one knows, as we now speak, what the final result is.”
In a statement, the hospital said the unit where the baby died on Jan. 10 is being cleaned and sterilized. Parents of children who were treated there this year are being contacted. Ste-Justine also said it’s too soon to say whether renovations in the unit were a factor. “Concerning the construction that’s being done near the unit, the hospital’s administration considers it’s premature to link it to this event.”
King cautions that most parents need not worry about the perils of mould. “Mould will only cause an infection in a person such as a very premature baby who has an immature or non-functional immune system,” he said.
If mould is identified as a factor in the baby’s death, Ste-Justine will join the growing ranks of Quebec hospitals where mould has threatened patients’ health.
At least five hospitals in Montreal alone have attributed patient deaths to the presence of toxic Aspergillus mould. Despite the apparent shortcomings of ventilation systems designed to reduce the presence of mould, King says such infections are, “extremely unfortunate, but rare events.”
“Since there is no such thing as a totally 100 per cent foolproof system at all times, there are times when these unfortunate incidents do happen.” In 2002, the city’s health department published a guide aimed at reducing the spread of mould during construction work.