above image from MSU today
Five deaths have been blamed on fungal infections caused by linens used at two University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) hospitals. The linens had been supplied by Paris Healthcare Linen’s facility in DuBois, Pennsylvania, and the family of two of the victims filed wrongful death suits against the hospital system.
In 2015, the CDC looked into the first four deaths and could not find the source of the mold. They reported, “Remediation was performed and there’s no evidence of any ongoing outbreak.” However the CDC did not investigate the linens or the laundry facility. It was thought the mold entered the hospital rooms through the ventilation system.
Currently the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health have no plans to reopen the investigation.
However, UPMC commissioned environmental specialists to investigate the cause themselves and their findings suggest the mold probably originated from the linen plant’s roof near dryer vents. Unfiltered air was used to dry the linens and could have contaminated them prior to being delivered to the hospitals.
The two molds found on tested linens were mucor and rhizopus. These are common molds that rarely affect healthy individuals. The victims, however, were transplant patients who were in an immunosuppressed state to prevent rejection. In the lawsuit, Daniel Krieg, 56 suffered from a rhizopus pneumonia, one month after his kindey transplant. Che DuVall, 70, also suffered from the same mold-induced pneumonia, after undergoing a lung transplant. Both mold infections required the patients to undergo lobectomies (lung lobes removed), but neither patient survived.
Two other mold-related deaths were settled out of court by UPMC for $1.3 million each. One additional case was a transplant patient as well, who was treated at their Montefiore campus.
Hospitals routinely contract out laundry services, but whether the CDC reopens this investigation or not, these deaths highlight the need for all external sources to be diligent in their cleaning practices in case they introduce a pathogen into a delicate hospital environment.
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Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician