Virulent bacterium kills baby at Los Angeles hospital

A baby died after being infected by a virulent bacterium during an outbreak that prompted officials at an East Los Angeles hospital to stop accepting patients to its neonatal intensive care unit.

The infant was among five patients at White Memorial Medical Center who were infected by Pseudomonas aeruginosa - a common but potentially deadly bacterium for those with weak immune systems. An autopsy was under way, although hospital officials said it was likely the baby died Monday because of the infection.

The infant is the second to die since the bacterium was detected Nov. 30. No autopsy was conducted on the first baby, although the infection was believed to be the likely cause of death, said Dr. Rosalio Lopez, the hospital's chief medical officer.

"We want to express our sincere sympathies to the families affected, and ensure the public that we take the health and safety of our patients very seriously," Lopez said in a telephone interview, adding he was confident the outbreak has been contained, the AP said.

The source appears to be improper cleaning of laryngoscope blades, a piece of medical equipment used to insert breathing tubes, hospital and county health officials said.

The others who were infected by the germ were treated with antibiotics and "continue to improve," Lopez said. They include two older children in the pediatrics intensive care ward who were not infected by the equipment, he said.

The source of their infection has yet to be determined.

The hospital temporarily ceased new admissions to its pediatrics intensive care ward last week. It was back to normal operations Monday after hospital officials sterilized the unit and found no further trace of the bacterium.

The hospital was working with county and federal health officials to determine when to reopen the neonatal intensive care unit, which was closed to new patients Dec. 4, Lopez said. He said most babies treated in the unit are either born prematurely or have multiple medical problems.

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