A Seattle hospital is grappling with a deadly outbreak of the Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria that has killed four patients and infected 31 others. The outbreak, which began in October 2022, was first detected at Virginia Mason Medical Center’s downtown campus, where infected patients were hospitalized in various departments. In a statement released Wednesday, the hospital revealed that the infected patients had contracted Klebsiella, a bacteria commonly found in healthcare settings that has developed resistance to some antibiotics.

Hospital Struggles to Identify Transmission Source as Death Toll Rises

Officials at Virginia Mason Medical Center said they were investigating the source of transmission for the Klebsiella outbreak, which has claimed four lives already. The latest confirmed case was identified on April 3, and the infected patients had been hospitalized in inpatient medical beds, an ICU, and an operating room. The hospital said it was unclear how Klebsiella contributed to the deaths of the four patients as they already had complex diagnoses when they arrived at the hospital.

What is Klebsiella pneumoniae?

Klebsiella pneumoniae is a type of bacteria that lives naturally in the environment and can be part of the normal bacteria that live in a healthy digestive system. According to health officials, infections usually occur among sick or immunocompromised patients who are receiving treatment for other conditions. Although most people who contract the bacteria will never experience an infection, Klebsiella pneumoniae can lead to urinary tract infections and other complications.

Klebsiella Pneumoniae: What You Need to Know

Hospital officials emphasized that the risk of transmission was extremely low for patients. Sydney Bersante, interim president of Virginia Mason Medical Center, said the hospital had implemented increased safety measures since identifying the outbreak and provided treatment to infected patients. “We are continuing to investigate the source of this outbreak jointly with local and state public health partners,” Bersante wrote in a statement.