Hospital officials report 12 cases of MRSA at Pittsburgh's Children's Hospital NICU

Six neonatal intensive care unit patients and six staff members have tested positive for MRSA at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

The hospital said all of the patients have been tested for MRSA, also known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Only one of the six patients who tested positive was symptomatic.

Parents said their babies had their mouths swabbed last week.

“It's scary. She's going through enough, and now I have to worry about whether she's going to have MRSA or anybody caring for her,” Liz Mowbray, the great aunt of a baby in the NICU, said.

According to the hospital, a portion of the population carries MRSA -- a type of bacteria that is resistant to several antibiotics -- but never has symptoms.

MRSA has been associated with pneumonia, skin infections, bloodstream infections and heart valve infections. It is spread through contact with infected people or things that are carrying the bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease doctor, said MRSA is something hospitals have dealt with for a long time, but he understands how parents are worried because their babies are already so fragile in the NICU.

“What really matters is how effective the response is to these cases, and how quickly they're able to identify a cause and change in order to prevent these things from happening,” Adalja said.

Adalja said it seems the hospital is containing the MRSA because only one baby has symptoms.

UPMC released the following statement Monday:

"UPMC always follows CDC guidelines, and isolation protocols and infection control procedures are in place. We immediately notified the Allegheny County Health Department and Pennsylvania Department of Health."

The CDC recommends washing hands well, keeping cuts covered until they heal and avoiding sharing things like towels and razors to help reduce the risk of spreading MRSA.

Health inspectors believe a visitor passed on MRSA to at least one person with the infection, but they're still investigating to see if it is the same strain for all 12 people.

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