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Potentially Fatal Superbug At Monash Children's Hospital

The newly opened Monash Children's Hospital in Melbourne has been infected with a potentially fatal superbug, with the germ already spreading throughout the facility.

Eight babies in special care units have already been infected with the superbug, thought to be vancomycin resistant enterococcus (VRE), a bowel bacteria that is tough to treat.

The eight youngsters in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Special Care Nursery areas of the hospital have contracted the disease, however, the bacteria has not yet spread throughout their bodies.

When the bacteria remains stagnant within the bowel such as in these cases, it means that a person is not yet infected and will show no symptoms of the illness. They are instead considered a carrier.

Monash Health have confirmed that eight babies within their care are carrying the VRE superbug. Associate Professor Rhonda Stuart, medical director of infection prevention, has said that the affected babies were isolated straight away and parents were notified.

Professor Stuart has also clarified that the children carrying VRE are not currently sick and two have already been discharged. She added that extra precautions are being taken to prevent the disease from spreading further throughout the hospital.

"Our staff are trained in correct cleaning techniques using stream and microfibre technology," she said.

"The original source of VRE is difficult to establish as it is commonly present in hospitals across Australia and the world."

Professor Ben Howden of the Doherty Institute has claimed that only a small percentage of patients actually become infected once they have contracted the disease, but between 20 and 40 per cent of those infected could die.

Premature babies and those with lower immune systems are considered to be the most at risk by the superbug.

Symptoms of the VRE infection include fever, rapid pulse rate, redness and swelling.

Professor Howden has said that the superbug is actually quite common in Australia compared to other parts of the world and that it is not always caused by a lack of cleanliness in hospitals.

"We know we are winning with other superbugs, so this one is just very challenging," he said.

"It is a complex problem and even in good health systems VRE remains troublesome."

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