Bacterial outbreak leads to damage control at baby unit

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Stringent infection controls are in place at Auckland City Hospital after 21 newborn babies were found to be infected with a potentially fatal bacteria in the neonatal intensive care unit.

The bacteria was immune to a common antibiotic and a similar outbreak at Wellington Hospital four years ago left three babies dead and more than 30 infected, the New Zealand Herald reported today.

The paper said the Wellington bacterial strain was slightly different from the Auckland outbreak.

Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium commonly found on human skin, was first reported at the 41-bed unit in April when it was full.

The bacterium was one of the top three fatal infections for premature babies.

Symptoms could include only pimples or mild rashes, but could lead to fatal conditions such as pneumonia, meningitis, toxic shock syndrome and septicemia.

Dr Sally Roberts, the hospital's infection control clinical adviser said the infection was relatively common in neonatal intensive care units but had been identified early and infection control measures had been "stringently implemented".

She said she was confident the infection had been well managed and would not lead to serious harm for the babies.