Monday, 2 June 2014

Boy, 9, beat leukaemia but died after lung infection caused by building work at Birmingham Children's Hospital

Patients who are undergoing treatment for some cancers are vulnerable to infection and they often have an immune system with a severely reduced ability to work well for some time.

In this case a young boy has had his cancerous blood cells replaced by healthy cells (donated by his brother). As part of the process his blood cells are removed (thus hopefully eliminating his cancer) and there is a wait before his new healthy cells can provide an adequate immune system. During that time such patients are vulnerable to all infections but some infections are more difficult to treat than others - Aspergillus for example is easy to breathe in and very tough to treat until the immune system recovers.

There is evidence that suggests that building works in the area of a hospital is associated with an increase in the numbers of Aspergillus infections. Many hospitals have specific policies on dealing with the consequences of building works.

In the case in this report it was found that the hospital and its staff failed to take adequate notice of the threat imposed by local building works with tragic consequences.

Such deaths are avoidable, awareness of the association of building works and aspergillosis needs to be improved - staff, management and contractor.

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