Science and Tech


31 patients fall ill due to bacteria outbreak at Seattle hospital

A Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria infection could lead to various ailments including pneumonia and meningitis, health officials say.
Biofilm containing bacteria Klebsiella, 3D illustration.
Posted at 5:31 PM, Apr 27, 2023

A hospital in Seattle is dealing with an outbreak of Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria. 

Virginia Mason Medical Center said there have been 31 infections since October 2022. The most recent known case was reportedly identified on April 3. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, an infection with the bacteria can cause various ailments including pneumonia and meningitis. When there's an outbreak in a health care setting, the CDC says infections typically occur among patients who are receiving treatment for other conditions or are on a ventilator, using a catheter or are taking long courses of certain antibiotics.

The CDC notes that healthy people do not usually get Klebsiella infections.

An electron microscope image of Group A Streptococcus is shown.

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The hospital said it's working with local public health officials to figure out the source of the outbreak.

"While the risk of transmission is extremely low for patients, we continue to take proactive steps to avoid additional transmission," Virginia Mason Medical Center said in a statement. 

Preventing Klebsiella infections requires strict cleaning, according to the CDC. The agency says people should wash their hands often, especially before eating or drinking, or changing wound dressings or bandages.

Treatment for Klebsiella infections can be difficult. The CDC says while some infections can be treated with antibiotics, some strains are resistant to the drugs.

3D microscope close-up of meningitis bacteria.

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