Friday , July 23 2021

Two patients die after contracting pigeon droppings in hospital

Two patients died after contracting a fungal infection linked to pigeon droppings at a Glasgow hospital.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGCC) launched an investigation into the death of a patient at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, with the cause still to be determined.

The health council said the second affected patient – who was elderly – died of an unrelated problem.

Control measures were immediately implemented after the two cases of Cryptococcus were detected.

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A spokesman said: "Our thoughts are with families at this distressing time.

"Due to patient confidentiality, we can not share more details of the two cases.

"The organism is harmless to the vast majority of people and rarely causes disease in humans."

The infection is caused by the inhalation of the fungus Cryptococcus, found mainly in the soil and excrement of pigeons.

The NHSGCC said a likely source was found in a non-public area away from the wings and excreta were removed.

The health council said that a small number of children and adults who are vulnerable to infection are receiving medication and this has proved effective.

Teresa Inkster, NHSGCC's chief consultant for infection control, said: "Cryptococcus lives in the environment around the world. This rarely causes infection in humans.

"People can become infected after breathing microscopic fungi, although most people who are exposed will never get sick.

"There have been no more cases since the control measures were put in place.

"Meanwhile, we continue to monitor air quality and these results are being analyzed.

"It is our priority to ensure a safe environment for patients and employees."

As an extra precaution, the health board has installed portable HEPA filter units in specific areas, which continuously filter the air.

NHSGCC said that during the course of the investigations, a separate issue arose with the sealant in some of the bathrooms.

The repairs are underway and the maintenance team is working to fix the problem as soon as possible with the minimum of disruption, he said.

The health council added that, as an added precaution, a specific group of patients are being transferred into the hospital because of their clinical diagnosis and ongoing treatment.

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Shadow Health Secretary for Scottish Work Monica Lennon said: "This is tragic news and our thoughts are with the families and friends of the two people who have died.

"Patients and the general public need to make sure this unit is safe.

"The Scottish government and the health council must ensure an appropriate investigation process at the pace and Secretary of Health Jeane Freeman should update Parliament at the earliest opportunity."

Scottish MP Mrs Glasgow MSP Annie Wells said: "This is an alarming revelation, and it will cause concern among employees, patients and family.

"It is vital that this situation be controlled immediately before increasing.

"An urgent investigation is needed to get the answers that families will demand."

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