The Belfast Trust is investigating an outbreak of Pseudomonas aeruginosa at a neo-natal maternity unit at the Royal Maternity Hospital, believed to have caused the deaths of 3 babies.
Pseudomonas is a bacterium that can cause infection in the chest, blood and urine. It is found in many natural places including plants, soil, surface or stagnant water and warm moist environments.
Pseudomonas can be spread from one person another person via unwashed hands. It can live on hands and surfaces for up to two and a half hours without any harm, but multiplies in the lungs of people whose immune systems are weakened.
Two of the babies died in the last ten days, but the possible link to the infection was only recently discovered.
There are currently 26 babies on the unit which cares for ill or premature babies. All of them are being tested for the infection, and those in the clear will be treated elsewhere.
Admission to the unit is being restricted, and the hospital is asking everyone, including parents and guardians, to be diligent in their hand hygiene when entering and leaving the unit.
Consultant Clifford Mayes, who works in the neo-natal unit, said: "What we have done is that we have screened all the babies in the unit looking for evidence of this on their skin, so that we can separate babies who are very well and have no pseudomonas on their skin from those who do."
In a statement, the trust said: "We are in the process of investigating the outbreak and taking all steps to identify the source.
"To help prevent the spread of this infection everyone including parents and guardians are being asked to be diligent in their hand hygiene when entering and leaving the unit.
"The situation will be kept under constant review."
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