There has been a recent bacterial outbreak at Seattle’s Virginia Mason Franciscan Health which killed four patients and infected at least 31.

Bacterial Outbreak

A bacterial outbreak at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health in Seattle, Washington, has infected a total of 31 patients, four of whom have died, according to a press release on the hospital’s website.

While the cause of death is yet to be confirmed, the Public Health – Seattle & King County officials are investigating the connection between the bacterial outbreak and the patients’ deaths.

The bacteria responsible for the outbreak has been identified as Klebsiella pneumoniae.

Virginia Mason first announced the outbreak in October 2022, and the hospital has posted multiple updates, the most recent being on April 25.

The hospital has implemented increased safety measures, notified patients who tested positive for the bacteria, and provided prompt treatment to those in need.

The Outbreak is Under Investigation

“This type of outbreak is complex, and despite thorough investigation, we may never know the source,” said Dr. Eric Chow, Chief of Communicable Disease Epidemiology and Immunization Public Health at Public Health – Seattle & King County, in a public statement.

Klebsiella pneumonia is a rare cause of infection that is uncommon in patients with normal immune systems who have not been in the hospital for extended periods.

According to Dr. Ken Perry, an emergency physician in Charleston, South Carolina, the symptoms of Klebsiella pneumonia are similar to other common bacterial pneumonias, including fever, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.

“The infection will show up in an X-ray of the chest and will grow worse the longer the patient remains on the ventilator,” said Perry, who is an executive board member of the State Chapter of the College of Emergency Physicians.

What is Klebsiella Bacteria?

The Klebsiella bacteria can cause infections of wounds and surgical sites, pneumonia, bloodstream infections, or meningitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The infection most often affects sick patients in healthcare settings who are on ventilators, catheters, or extended antibiotic treatments. Healthy people are generally not at risk.

The CDC warns that some forms of the bacteria are resistant to some antibiotics, making it difficult to treat. The bacteria is not airborne and can also infect other at-risk patients who are not hospitalized.

The hospital is working with public health officials to identify the source of the outbreak. Meanwhile, the hospital continues to take proactive steps to prevent further transmission and ensure the safety of patients.

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