CDC says infant died from contaminated breast pump

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Federal health officials are warning parents of newborns to sterilize equipment used for both bottles and breastfeeding after a baby died last year from a rare infection tied to a contaminated breast pump.

The infant, a premature boy, was infected with the bacterium Cronobacter sakazakii, the same germ that sparked a recall and nationwide shortage of powdered infant formula last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

But this child was not infected by contaminated formula.

The baby, who was admitted to the hospital, was fed a mixture of breastmilk and liquid human milk fortifier through a tube. Genetic sequencing linked the infection to bacteria isolated from breast pumps used at home. Samples of expressed milk, hospital-used breast pumps and liquid human milk fortifiers were all negative for the bacteria.

One investigation found that home breast pumps were cleaned in a household sink, cleaned, and sometimes assembled while still damp.

CDC expert in pediatric infectious diseases Dr. Julia Heston said this case highlights that Cronobacter bacteria are widely found in the environment and can cause serious and fatal infections.

“There are steps people can take to prevent infection,” she said, including thoroughly washing, cleaning and drying hands, equipment and all surfaces before feeding a baby.

“Caregivers of infants should follow safe sanitation, preparation and storage practices, and take steps to protect infants from infection,” the CDC said in its report released Thursday.

The agency also recommended “exploring alternatives to powdered formula for infants with the highest risk and safety in preparation and storage.”

The CDC said that hospitals caring for premature or critically ill babies may consider providing families with a basin for cleaning supplies to take home to reduce the risk of contamination.

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