Search for superbug source at N&N

MARK NICHOLLS Health chiefs at Norfolk's key hospital are desperately appealing to parents of premature babies that may have been affected by a new superbug to come forward and help identify the source of the outbreak.

MARK NICHOLLS

Health chiefs at Norfolk's key hospital are desperately appealing to parents of premature babies that may have been affected by a new superbug to come forward and help identify the source of the outbreak.

The alert comes as infection control experts at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital are continuing to investigate the outbreak of non-MRSA panton-valentine leukocidin (PVL) positive S aureus, following a cluster of cases in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.

The bug - which left one baby dead and initially affected five others - is now known to have been carried by a seventh baby. One of the parents of one of the other children has also been identified as carrying the bug.

A total of 66 sets of parents are being contacted to return to the hospital with their babies to be screened. This involves taking a swab from the nose and throat which is then tested in the hospital laboratory. If necessary, they will be treated with appropriate antibiotics to eradicate the bug.

The appeal comes as Ian and Karlene Randall, from Dereham, the parents of tiny Alfie who died after contracting the bug, spoke for the first time of their heartache.

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Mrs Randall said: "We are more angry than anything else because we would like answers about how he died. He was only 2lb 7oz but he was a beautiful little boy. The doctors were so happy with him that at three days he was taken off his antibiotic drip and respirator.

"But they think he was not the first baby to catch it. If they knew babies had this infection, why did they take him off his antibiotics?"

Following his birth, the couple, who have two daughters, Satina, two, and Aleisha, one, were told he was doing well. The family were preparing for him to be allowed home for Christmas when they were informed he had taken a turn for the worse.

Mrs Randall, 20, said: "We are just hoping and praying that all the rest of the babies are okay and it doesn't happen again."

Alfie, who was born at 26 weeks, was buried four days before Christmas.

At this stage, not all parents of babies on the unit have come forward for screening.

N&N consultant microbiologist Judith Richards said: "We are doing all we can to ensure that all babies who have been treated on the unit between November 22 and December 19 are screened, along with close relatives and all neonatal staff, so that appropriate treatment can be given.

"Testing has continued throughout the Christmas period and many of our staff have worked extra hours to help deal with the outbreak. In addition to caring for 26 babies on the neonatal unit, the staff have also been available to talk to parents and answer their questions."

The neo-natal unit has undergone additional specialist cleaning and has been closed to new admissions from other hospitals. Visiting on the unit is also being restricted to parents only.

The cluster of PVL cases is the first to be seen in the 28-cot neonatal unit at the N&N.

The PVL strains affect previously healthy young children and young adults - in contrast to the so-called "hospital-associated MRSA" strains which do not produce PVL and are more commonly associated with causing wound infections and blood-poisoning in more elderly hospitalised patients.