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Bacterial outbreak closes Prince George's hospital neonatal intensive care unit

Prince George's Hospital Center said Wednesday it is temporarily closing its neonatal intensive care unit and transferring five babies to other hospitals because of a bacterial outbreak

The decision was made after two babies tested positive for the bacterium Pseudomonas. The bacterium is found widely in soil, water and other parts of the environment. While it doesn't harm most healthy people it can lead to illness in small babies with health challenges.

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This is the second closing at the NICU because of Pseudomonas. In August the NICU was closed and testing found the bacterium was coming from the water supply system feeding the NICU. The NICU re-opened October 4 after treatment of the water supply system and testing that found no more trace of the bacteria.

Hospital officials do not know the source of the latest outbreak.

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"Our highest priority is the safety and well-being of our patients, as well as supporting the needs of our families," Sherry B. Perkins, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Healthcare System, which owns the hospital, said in a statement. "This is a complex epidemiological case, but our dedicated group of public health experts are working closely to determine the cause of this latest bacterium presence. We have concerns over the rediscovered presence within the NICU setting, but we will be relentless in researching and eliminating the bacterium however possible."

The hospital is working with public health, epidemiology, and infection control experts from the Prince George's County Health Department, the Maryland Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

Dimensions said last month it plans to replace Prince George's Hospital Center with a new $543 million regional medical center in Largo that will be owned and operated by the University of Maryland Medical System. A spokeswoman said an affiliation agreement is expected to be signed by next spring.

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