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Possible New Listeriosis Case at UCI Hospital

Times Staff Writer

Doctors at UCI Medical Center diagnosed an additional probable case of Listeriosis in a baby born at the hospital Monday morning, but they said the infant is being treated with antibiotics and is doing well.

The bacteria has caused 17 cases of Listeriosis--including seven deaths of babies--in Orange County, health officials said. The bacteria brings on flu-like symptoms in otherwise healthy adults but can cause death in babies and the elderly. It has been linked to consumption of cheese manufactured by Jalisco Mexican Products of Artesia, according to health officials.

Mother Developed Fever

UCI neonatologist Jack Sills said in the latest suspected case the baby’s mother developed a fever minutes after giving birth at the hospital, and she tested positive for Listeria.

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Although her newborn appeared healthy, the baby was rushed from the regular nursery to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit and samples of the baby’s body fluids were taken for testing, Sills said. Doctors did not have test results Monday afternoon, but they started the baby on antibiotics anyway to fight off the bacteria, Sills said.

Sills, an assistant professor of pediatrics, said doctors do not know whether the mother consumed the cheese but said the Listeria organism can live in a pregnant woman for months before it shows up. “There’s going to be plenty more of these cases before it’s over,” he said.

The latest case of Listeriosis, if confirmed, would bring UCI Medical Center’s case total to 11--all infants. Three babies were stillborn at UCI and two more died soon after birth because of the Listeria bacteria. Two other babies died at other Orange County hospitals. Doctors said the bacteria in the mother’s blood were passed to the infant through the placenta, which provides the fetus with nutrients.

One newborn who nearly died because of the Listeria infection is expected to go home today, Sills said.

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The baby, Francisco Javier Martinez Rojas, was born June 2 with no heartbeat but was resuscitated, Sills said. When the expectant mother had arrived at the hospital with a fever, doctors determined the fetus was “in distress” and started the woman on antibiotics before the baby was delivered by Caesarean section, he said.

The infant boy had pneumonia, liver disease, and kidney and blood-clotting problems, Sills said. “It was touch and go for the next three days,” the neonatologist said.

The baby now has completed his antibiotic therapy and “appears to have no permanent damage that we can see, although it’s too early to see, especially with a baby born without a heart rate,” Sills said.

“It’s amazing. We did a real good job with him. But we can only do so much with medicine. It’s the baby that has to respond,” he said.

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Still, Sills said, if the mother had come in to the hospital just an hour later, “it probably would have been a stillborn.”


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