Experts battle infection that killed 18 babies

Dr. Fenton Ferguson


Fenton FergusonKINGSTON, Jamaica – International health experts have arrived in Jamaica to help authorities fight a bacterial infection that has killed 18 premature babies at two hospitals in the last four months.

In addition, local health officials are stepping up infection control and sanitation in healthcare facilities across the island.

That’s according to Health Minister Dr. Fenton Ferguson who disclosed that since June this year a total of 42 newborns – some born prematurely – at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) and the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH) had the infections caused by the Klebsiella and Serratia bacteria.

Of the infected babies at CRH, 73% of those who were of the gestational age of seven months or older survived. At the UHWI, all babies who were older than seven months of the gestational age survived.

National epidemiologist with the Ministry of Health Dr. Karen Webster-Kerr suggested an unsanitary environment was responsible for the babies being infected. She stressed that personnel who came into contact with the newborns were quarantined and it was determined they were not responsible for spreading the bacterial infection.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Klebsiella bacteria can be spread in healthcare through person-to-person contact or, less commonly, by contamination of the environment but not through the air.

The bacteria can cause different types of healthcare-associated infections, including pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound or surgical site infections and meningitis.

Serratia bacteria is similar to Klebsiella bacteria.

The minister said a team from the Pan American Health Organization including an adviser on infection prevention and control is on the island and the Caribbean Public Health Agency is on standby to assist as required.