Saddam’s Revenge may have killed 3 NJ infants

The New Jersey Department of Health is investigating a drug-resistant bacterial outbreak in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of University Hospital in Newark, where three premature infants have died after being exposed to the infection.

The health department first became aware of the Acinetobacter baumannii infection on Oct. 1 and teams have been closely monitoring the situation.

Colloquially, A. baumannii is referred to as ‘Iraqibacter’ due to its sudden emergence in military treatment facilities during the Iraq War, but it has spread from soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan to civilian hospitals here in the US.

Saddam’s Revenge is increasingly becoming a hospital-derived infection, as the multidrug-resistant A. baumannii has spread through numerous domestic medical facilities where infected soldiers have been transported.

In a statement, the health department said that the infants contracted the infection six weeks ago and, due to other medical conditions related to being born premature, the bacterial infection may not be the cause of death.

As part of an ongoing investigation of the bacterial infection outbreak, the the health department learned late yesterday that two premature infants with confirmed infections died last week.

Acinetobacter baumannii is a typically short, almost round, rod-shaped Gram-negative bacterium that can be an opportunistic pathogen in humans, affecting people with compromised immune systems, and is becoming increasingly important as a hospital-derived infection.

The infants contracted the infection six weeks ago and, due to other medical conditions related to being born premature, the bacterial infection may not be the cause of death. No new NICU infections have been confirmed since October, when the Department ordered an external infection prevention expert to guide efforts in the NICU.

A Department survey team is on-site today to investigate the hospital’s internal notification policies, governance, and other factors that relate to reporting of deaths of cases during an ongoing outbreak. As of yesterday, the hospital’s own infection control program was not aware of the deaths when contacted.

The Department first became aware of this bacterial infection on October 1, when two cases of A. baumannii were confirmed in the NICU. Two additional cases were confirmed in lab tests later in October. Of these four confirmed cases, three of the infants have died.

On October 25, the department reported that a premature infant who had been cared for at University Hospital but was transferred to another facility, had the bacteria and died at the end of September, before the state officials were notified. The fourth infant was discharged at the end of last month.

The state ordered corrective action on October 25 and assigned teams to the facility to ensure that infection control protocols are followed.

State inspectors found major infection control deficiencies at University Hospital but they are grappling with a number of other serious health problems.

An E. Coli outbreak that can cause bleeding and kidney problems is happening with 3 cases linked to romaine lettuce reported in New Jersey, state health officials expect a Lakewood measles outbreak to spread and at least 10 people died after an adenovirus outbreak at Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in New Jersey in Haskell, where 28 cases have been confirmed.

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