Children’s Hospital Sued After Flesh-Eating Fungus On Linens Kills At Least Five

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A New Orleans hospital is being sued after at least five children, including premature babies, were infected with a flesh-eating fungus and later died.

One thing the three boys and two girls at Children’s Hospital had in common was that their hospital linens were contaminated with mucormycosis, according to a soon-to-be-published research study.

Five children from 35 days old to 13 years old were infected in various wards of the hospital from 2008 to 2009, the New Orleans Advocate reported.

Many parents were not aware of the cause of their child’s infections. Six years later, a 14-page report about the New Orleans mucormycosis outbreak will be published in the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal next week.

Now Cassandra Gee and Terrel Jones are suing the hospital after their son was born premature in 2008 and died of a subsequent infection.

The couple says their baby, Tyrel, was doing fine until they noticed a spot on his groin.

"The area of irritation spread extremely rapidly, ultimately becoming what appeared to petitioner to be an open wound with extreme discoloration which was obviously causing extreme pain and suffering to her young child Tyrel Gee,” the suit states.

The infant died in August 2008. The couple was told their son died of sepsis. They filed suit after the mother found an article about the report in the Times-Picayune.

"Much to the shock and dismay of petitioner, the description of one of the children that died matched identically with that of her son Tyrel Gee. Specifically, the birth date published of the child was July 12, 2008, and the child was described to have been born at 26 weeks gestation,” the claim states. “Additionally, the article discussed the fact that Tyrel Gee had contracted and/or come in contact with a flesh eating bacteria known as mucorycosis [sic].”

Parents Stephen Tyler and Dorothy Malik say doctors failed to promptly biopsy a black spot on 13-year-old Zachary Tyler’s armpit in March 2009.

It grew to the size of baseball, then another one appeared on his spine. Zachary went to Children’s Hospital with a rare blood disease and eventually died from herpes infection on May 17, 2009, according to a malpractice suit filed by his parents. The suit, filed four years ago in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, claims doctors cut away tissue and major muscle and performed a colonostomy over more than 20 procedures to stave off further spread of the fungal infection.

A year after his death, Zachary’s family said a “confidential source” told them that “there was an outbreak of mucormycosis at Children’s Hospital as a result of contaminated linens supplied by TLC Services, Inc. and that as a consequence of this outbreak five patients died, including Zachary Tyler,” the lawsuit states.

“The organism is very invasive. It can invade through tissue planes, and it likes iron, so it invades blood vessels. You can also inhale it. It can cause very severe pulmonary disease, and it sort of just chews through you,” Dr. Tom Chiller, a CDC medical epidemiologist who specializes in fungi, told the The Advocate. “These are incredibly — thankfully — rare infections, and they’re very severe.”

Sources: Courthouse News ServiceNew Orleans Advocate