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PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — A lawsuit filed by the family of a premature baby who was treated at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia alleges she died after being one of 23 infants infected during a virus outbreak at the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit in 2016.
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia announced Thursday that 23 infections were observed among infants. Each infant had contracted adenovirus infections after eye exams at the unit.
The lawsuit alleges the baby, Melanie Sanders, died as a result of the infection. It accuses the staff of negligence and failing to use proper hygiene.
“It’s hard to believe that can happen in 2016, but it did. And there was an outbreak in infections in babies in their intensive care unit,” says Shanin Specter, the family’s representative in the suit.
Lawyers for the hospital said in their court answer that survival of babies born so prematurely is uncertain for numerous reasons.
“It’s shocking that at CHOP they would not be cleaning their instrumentation and they would not have been wearing gloves during an eye exam,” Specter added.
In an article published by the American Journal of Infection Control in June 2017, hospital staff revealed that the outbreak was caused due to medical staff failing to wear gloves and clean equipment properly.
The authors of the medical journal article said 43 babies received the eye exam in the unit in August 2016, and 23 of them were infected. All of those who were infected suffered respiratory symptoms; five developed pneumonia; and 11 had eye-related symptoms, they said. In addition, nine adults including six nurses and three parents contracted viral infections.
“Observations revealed lack of standard cleaning practices of bedside ophthalmologic equipment and limited glove use,” the authors wrote.
The lawsuit said Melanie was being treated for eye issues related to her premature birth during the summer of 2016 and, within a few weeks of being transferred to the Philadelphia-based hospital, she started having respiratory symptoms.
She tested positive for an adenovirus and went into respiratory distress, requiring a drainage tube to be placed in her chest on four separate occasions, the suit said. The suit went on to say that she developed a bacterial infection on top of the viral illness and died on Sept. 11, 2016.
Once the outbreak was identified, staff moved quickly to determine the source of the virus and warn all of those who were at risk, the hospital said in a statement.
“The hospital led a swift and proactive response. Strict infection control procedures, coupled with numerous safety enhancements. were immediately put into place, and no additional cases have since been identified,” the statement read.
The statement said the hospital instituted safety measures that are currently being shared with hospitals around the country to prevent future viral outbreaks.
It said hospital officials could not comment on the details of the lawsuit.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)