Children’s Health system has temporarily moved 28 pediatric patients to other areas of its Dallas hospital after routine air testing detected higher-than-normal levels of the aspergillus fungus.
“As part of our routine air testing, we had a result that was out of range and indicated a need for further investigation,” the hospital told The Dallas Morning News in a statement.
The mold was recently linked to the death of five patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital, leading the facility to close all of its main operating rooms. Doctors there now believe seven older cases, including five deaths, are linked to ongoing mold problems in some surgical rooms. Those cases date from 2001 to 2014.
In its statement, Children’s Health officials said no patients have developed infections. They also stressed that they are in contact with patients and their families.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we are proactively taking steps to reduce any potential patient risk, including temporarily relocating patients and surgeries to other parts of our hospital,” the statement said.
Aspergillus is a common mold that can cause infection, especially in people with weakened immune systems and those with lung disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In Seattle, hospital officials previously considered each of the cases to be isolated events. But at least one lawsuit that grew out of the cases blamed deficient hospital air-handling systems for exposing patients to the fungus during surgery.
In a fact sheet on its website, the CDC said the number of aspergillosis cases nationally is difficult to determine because it isn’t considered a reportable infection in the U.S. Milder, allergic forms of aspergillosis are more common than the invasive form.
The CDC said the first estimates of invasive aspergillosis were in the San Francisco area in 1992-1993 and suggested 1 to 2 cases a year per 100,000 population. But the number of hospitalizations from the invasive fungus increased an average of 3% a year from 2000 to 2013, CDC reported.
Nearly 15,000 hospitalizations occurred in 2014, at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion, the CDC said.
Children’s Medical Center Dallas is one of the largest pediatric hospitals in the country, offering more than 50 pediatric specialties and the highest level of trauma care in North Texas. It’s the flagship for a $1.75 billion-a-year system that offers care at 40 locations in the region, including a second hospital in Plano. It’s also planning a 72-acre campus in Prosper.