An infant who developed a mold infection at Seattle Children’s Hospital has died, becoming the seventh patient at the facility killed by the same infection since 2001.
Elizabeth Hutt, a five-month-old girl, had been battling an Aspergillus mold infection for months and she “just could not beat it,” her family said in a statement Thursday through their attorney, Karen Koehler.
Last year, the hospital confirmed that six patients who developed the same Aspergillus infection have died and several others have been sickened since 2001. The main operating rooms were shut down, first in May and again in November, after the hospital detected the common mold Aspergillus in the air.
Elizabeth’s death Wednesday comes weeks after the family joined a class-action lawsuit filed against the hospital in behalf of the families of patients who have been sickened from the mold. The filing alleges hospital managers knew as early as 2005 that the transmission of Aspergillus into its premises could be related to its air-handling system, and it claims the hospital engaged in “a cover-up designed to reassure its patients, doctors, nurses, and the public that its premises were safe, when in fact they were not.”
The infant was born in August at a Tacoma hospital but was transferred to Seattle Children’s Hospital the following day for “treatment of an underdeveloped left heart and other related conditions,” according to the lawsuit.
She could have been infected during an open heart surgery in August and a second surgery she had in November to address a complication, the lawsuit states.
“The wonderful medical doctors and staff at Seattle Children’s Hospital worked hard and with compassion to save our baby’s life. But her chances of recovering were taken away when an operating room infected her with Aspergillus mold,” the family said in their statement Thursday.
“It grew inside of her and she just could not beat it. She should never have suffered so much. We are torn up as we wait for answers from the administration as to why their building was allowed to put our baby and so many other children in harm’s way,” the statement added.
When reached by CNN on Thursday, a hospital spokesperson did not confirm the death but responded with a statement:
“Losing a child is incredibly devastating for everyone whose lives were touched by that child,” the statement said. “Our deepest condolences go out to families and loved ones who have experienced a loss. Out of respect for privacy of our patients and their families, Seattle Children’s will not be sharing additional information.”
Mold’s rare fatal consequences
Aspergillus is a common mold that most people breathe in without getting sick, but it poses a greater risk to those with weakened immune systems or lung disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health problems can include allergic reactions, lung infections and other organ infections.
Prior mold infections in hospitals have also had fatal consequences.
Mold played a part in five deaths between 2014 and 2016 at two University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospitals, according to a 2017 report. Those patients were exposed to Mucor and Rhizopus mold.
Those who died of the infection were transplant patients. Both the hospital and the facility that handled the hospital’s linens tested positive for mold, the report showed.