Skip to main content.

Herd Immunity: NICU Babies Catch MRSA at Sacramento Hospital

Herd Immunity: NICU Babies Catch MRSA at Sacramento Hospital

Picture of William Heisel

Four words a parent never wants to hear when leaving the hospital: your baby has MRSA.

in Sacramento tested babies in its neonatal intensive care unit in August and found more than 20 with the antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including two who had developed symptoms related to the infection.

Dr. Richard DeFelice, an infectious disease specialist at Sutter, told Bill Lindelof at the Sacramento Bee, "The other kids have no clinical illness associated with this." :

The hospital does cultures to keep on the lookout for MRSA. The bacterium is in a small portion of the general population and shows up on healthy people. DeFelice said the hospital is making sure that infection control policies are being followed. The babies who tested positive are separated from other infants. More gowns and gloves are being used.

"We are continuing to do surveillance cultures on kids to see if there is any continuing spread with these new measures," DeFelice said.

Routine testing and surveillance for the bacteria are great first steps. You can’t catch MRSA if you’re not testing for it. I’m not sure what "more gowns and gloves" means. If staffers weren’t wearing gowns and gloves before, that’s a problem. If they are now just changing their gowns and gloves more frequently, that could be a move in the right direction.

But this is the dilemma that hospitals are in. Trying to track MRSA and other drug-resistant bugs and be transparent about the findings also opens them up to public scrutiny and to potential legal repercussions.

According to reports by Andria Borba at Fox40 News and NBC’s KCRA 3, at least five families are preparing to sue the hospital. :

They claim shoddy hand washing practices of Sutter doctors and spread the bacteria from one baby to another.

"This is supposed to be where my daughter is safe. This is a hospital. This is a baby hospital. There is nothing she can do protect herself. They are supposed to protect her from this," said LaShanda Bey, mother of baby Akira.

Making matters worse for Sutter? There’ s video. Borba reported:

Stacy Heard, mom of baby Tristan, says the video of her son’s birth clearly shows the poor hygiene practices.

 "You guys can see him opening the door with gloves on and not changing his gloves, maybe they should've had someone there to open the door and then touching all over my baby. It's gross to me," Heard told FOX40.

Both preemies are still in the NICU at Sutter.

The hospital isn’t talking anymore. (Legal threats tend to have this effect.) And it could be months before we know the results of an investigation by the California Department of Public Health. You can check out Sutter Memorial on the .

Have a suggestion of your own that you’d like to add to the map? Send me a note at [email protected] or via Twitter @wheisel.

Related Content:

Photo credit: Painting by 2nd grader Lauren Belloni

Leave A Comment


Join us at 8:30 a.m. March 22 on Facebook for a life streaming of our daylong briefing on the U.S. Census. You'll learn about the challenges facing counters, efforts to delegitimize the U.S. Census, how the climate of fear in immigrant communities might impede a good count, and discuss reporting and census data analysis strategies.  

What’s the difference between Medicare-for-all and Medicare-for-some? Are these realistic policy proposals, or political blips on the screen? Sign up here for our next Health Matters webinar!

If you're a journalist with big ideas who wants your work to matter, the Center for Health Journalism invites you to apply for the all-expenses-paid-- five days of stimulating discussions in Los Angeles about social and health safety net issues, reporting and engagement grants of $2,000-$12,000 and six months of expert mentoring.