The parents of an infant girl are suing Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), alleging that hospital’s failure to follow standard infection prevention controls led to their daughter’s death. She is one of 23 infants who were sickened during a 2016 hospital outbreak of adenovirus. Recent reports have indicated that there is a second infant who died, also allegedly due to the same viral contamination.
Melanie Sanders was a premature baby receiving treatment in the neonatal intensive care unit at CHOP, the 3rd best children’s hospital in the country according to U.S. News and World Report. Melanie, along with 22 other infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), became ill after receiving an eye exam. Each of the infants was diagnosed with adenovirus, a group of viruses that cause respiratory symptoms and can lead to pneumonia, an infection that can prove fatal to vulnerable hospital patients, especially children, those with compromised immune systems, and the elderly.
Of the 23 infants sickened by the virus, all showed respiratory symptoms, while 5 of these infants developed pneumonia. The hospital reported in the June 2017 issue of the American Journal of Infection Control that 12 of these patients “required increased respiratory support.” In addition to the 23 infants, 3 parents and 6 hospital employees acquired the virus.
Melanie Sanders began to show symptoms of adenovirus in mid-August 2016. She died less than 2 months after being diagnosed with the virus. In that short period of time, she underwent four procedures to place a drain in her chest, a procedure intended to help alleviate the buildup of fluid caused by respiratory distress. She also acquired a bacterial infection. Melanie Sanders died on September 11, 2016, exactly two years ago today.
Adenovirus Common, But Also Dangerous AND Preventable
Adenovirus is described by the CDC as “common viruses that cause a range of illness. They can cause cold-like symptoms, sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, and pink eye (conjunctivitis). You can get an adenovirus infection at any age. People with weakened immune systems or existing respiratory or cardiac disease are more likely than others to get very sick from an adenovirus infection.” Prevention tools are identical to prevention of other virus: frequent, thorough hand washing is essential, as is avoiding touching mucus membranes (eyes, nose, mouth), and attempting to avoid contact with anyone who may have the virus.
Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs) are a major concern for healthcare facilities. The CDC estimates that at any given time, 1 out of 25 hospital patients has at least one HAI. The most common HAI is pneumonia, accounting for nearly 1/4 of all infections originating within a hospital. For those with weakened immune systems, HAIs, and pneumonia in particular, can be extremely dangerous and even lethal. The CDC also estimates that 75,000 patients with a HAI die each year while still in the hospital.
Hospital Admitted to Improper Handwashing and Equipment Sterilization
With prevention of HAIs a major goal for acute care facilities, it’s hard to believe that the NICU of the 3rd best hospital in the country allowed over half of its NICU patients to become sickened by a preventable virus.
According to the hospital’s June 2017 report, they discovered “lack of standard cleaning practices of bedside ophthalmologic equipment and limited glove use.” The report also goes on to say that this equipment never touches the patient directly, meaning the transmission of adenovirus came from infected equipment that then was touched by staff. Not only was the equipment not cleaned, but staff also failed to practice the top rules of infection prevention: failure to wash hands and failure to wear protective gloves. The hospital also acknowledged that once the outbreak was realized, staff was required to take time off work, they ramped up their staff education on hand washing practices, isolated any contagious parties, and cleaned or discarded equipment.
Levin & Perconti: Illinois’ Medical Malpractice Attorneys
If someone you love has suffered or passed away from a healthcare associated infection, we want to talk to you. Oftentimes loved ones of sick patients are told that these things “just happen.” Poor hand hygiene, improper equipment sterilization, and failure to isolate patients or staff with viruses and infections are known causes responsible for the transmission of HAIs. While some infections are notoriously difficult to prevent and manage, many are simply the result of sloppy infection prevention behaviors.
Our medical malpractice attorneys have recovered over half a billion in verdicts and settlements and are committed to securing justice and the best possible result for you and your loved one. Consultations with our attorneys are always FREE and confidential. We are not paid unless we recover money for you.
Contact us toll-free at 1-877-374-1417, in Chicago 312-332-2872, or by completing our online case evaluation form.