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Fatal Case of Legionnaires’ in Infant Following Water Birth

LegionellaWEDNESDAY, Dec. 17, 2014 (HealthDay News) — A Texas infant has died from Legionnaires’ disease after being born in a whirlpool tub. The report of the infant’s death appears in the January 2015 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The Texas baby, whose gender was not disclosed, appeared at a hospital in January 2014 with symptoms including loose feces and respiratory failure. The infant, who was born in a whirlpool-style tub full of well water that hadn’t been chemically disinfected, died after 19 days in the hospital of Legionnaires’ disease. The researchers weren’t able to confirm that the water caused the infant to become ill because the tub used during the baby’s birth had been cleaned and stored. Well water samples tested negative for the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease.

Advocates of water birth say it leads to a less painful and more relaxing birth. But critics warn about the increased risk of infection. In a joint statement earlier this year, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics expressed skepticism about water birth: “Undergoing the early stages of labor in a birthing pool may offer some advantages to pregnant women. However, underwater delivery has no proven benefit to women or babies and may even pose a risk of serious health problems for the newborn.”

Report author Elyse Fritschel, M.P.H., an epidemiologist with the Texas Department of State Health Services in Arlington, didn’t advise against water births in general, but recommended an intense focus on safety. “Women should work with their health care provider to ensure procedures and processes are in place to prevent infection by avoiding birthing tubs that have circulating water and heating elements — whirlpool-style tubs — as these tubs may be difficult to clean and raise the temperature of the water, which may be conducive to the growth of microorganisms,” she told HealthDay.

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Photo by CDC Public Health Image Library via Wikimedia Commons.


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