According to investigators at the Texas Department of State Health Services, an infant in Texas died a few weeks after being born due to a Legionella bacteria infection. The bacteria are commonly found in warm water in hot tubs and water systems.
The baby was born in a heated birthing pool at home and taken to the hospital six days later due to breathing problems and other signs of an infection. The infant ultimately died in January 2014 after being hospitalized for 19 days.
In July 2014 there were reports of Legionella found in birthing pools in the UK; public health alerts and advisories were issued after one baby died as a result of exposure to the waterborne bacteria.
According to Elyse Fritschel, an epidemiologist at the Texas Department of State Health Services, “[infants] are in a higher risk category because of their underdeveloped immune system, and their developing physiology.”
Public health investigators in Texas reviewed the disinfection process used by the midwifery center that provided the family with the birthing pool. Investigators also tested the pool and water used to fill the tub for bacteria.
Unfortunately, by the time public health investigators were able to inspect, the birthing tub was already disinfected and placed back into storage, and so Legionella was not detected. Legionella was not detected in the water either, however, “current testing techniques don’t detect this bacterium 100 percent of the time.”
“Because Legionella is pretty ubiquitous in the environment, it’s not a big stretch to imagine that it would be in the water system, and there were no other exposures that were identified,” said Fritschel.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, giving birth using a birthing pool is generally not recommended because there are no proven benefits and there are a number of potential health risks for the baby including waterborne pathogens.
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