A sixth baby died on Tuesday following a Klebsiella pneumonia outbreak at the Thelle Mogoerane Regional Hospital in Vosloorus, the Gauteng department of health has confirmed.
According to the department, 12 neonates have been found to be blood culture positive for antibiotic resistant Klebsiella since July. Three neonates were discharged after treatment while three others who are currently being treated are in a stable condition.
The outbreak claimed its first life at the hospital on July 1, with another fatality reported on August 1. On August 25, two infants died and another died three days later.
Klebsiella pneumoniae is a bacterium that lives inside human intestines.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said Klebsiella pneumoniae is known to cause different types of healthcare-associated infections such as pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis, wound or surgical site infections.
People with severe illness, surgical patients, those who stay in hospital for prolonged periods, patients undergoing organ or stem cell transplantation, those in intensive care and people who are on mechanical ventilation are at risk for infections with carbapenem-resistant organisms such as Klebsiella, it explained.
Measures taken to prevent cross-infection
The NICD confirmed to News24 on Tuesday it had been asked by the provincial health department to investigate three weeks ago.
"An investigation is currently being coordinated by the NICD and the infection prevention and control (IPC) directorate of the Gauteng provincial department of health. The aim of the ongoing investigation is to verify the number of persons affected and to conduct an IPC audit," it said in a statement.
According to the provincial heath department, the hospital's neonatal unit currently houses a total of 70 babies, 19 of whom are "new admissions in the newly sanitised area".
"There are 51 neonates from July and August 2018 who are being closely monitored," it confirmed.
"All admissions after the beginning of September are admitted to newly sterilised areas with dedicated staff to prevent cross-infection between the prior admissions and new admissions.
"The hospital took proactive measures by strengthening infection prevention and control and closely monitoring the unit. All babies that were admitted in the ward were screened to prevent further infections."
A district specialist, an infection prevention and control team and the NICD have been "called in for support".