SEATTLE — Since October of last year, 31 patients at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle have been infected with Klebsiella bacteria.
The downtown Seattle location is experiencing an outbreak of Klebsiella pneumoniae, which according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, can lead to infections such as urinary tract infections, bloodstream infections, wound or surgical site infections, or pneumonia.
According to Seattle and King County Public Health, four patients who contracted the bacteria have died. It is still unclear whether their deaths were caused by infection.
It’s not uncommon to see Klebsiella pneumonia in hospitals, but the rate of this outbreak increased from Virginia Mason’s baseline rate, according to Public Health.
The first infection was recorded on October 10, 2022, and the most recent infection was recorded on April 3, 2023.
The hospital said they are working with Public Health, CDC and Department of Health officials to control the outbreak.
“We immediately implemented increased safety measures, notified patients who tested positive for the bacteria, and immediately provided treatment if necessary. Although the risk of transmission for patients is very low, we continue to take steps to prevent further transmission. We are continuing to investigate the source of this outbreak together with local and state public health partners,” Virginia Mason Medical Center Interim President Sydney Bersante wrote.
Officials have not yet determined the cause of the outbreak.
“These types of outbreaks are complex and despite thorough investigation, we may not know the source,” said Dr. Eric Chow, Chief of Communicable Disease Epidemiology & Immunization for Public Health.
Hospital staff say patients who suspect the disease or feel sick should contact their primary care provider, who can test for this bacterium and recommend a specific treatment.