A deadly infection has claimed the lives of three newly born babies at a Belfast maternity hospital.
Belfast’s Health Trust has restricted access to the city’s Royal Hospital after the outbreak of pseudomonas.
An investigation was launched after two babies died on Thursday and the outbreak has now claimed a third young life.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is bacteria found in soil, water, plants and animals, and is particularly harmful to those who are already ill.
A representative for the Royal Hospital confirmed: “Sadly the deaths may be linked to this outbreak. We are supporting these families at this very difficult time.
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“We are in the process of investigating the outbreak and taking all steps to identify the source.
“The hospital is asking everyone, including parents and guardians, to be diligent in their hand hygiene when entering and leaving the unit.”
Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Edwin Poots has conveyed his sympathies to the babies’ families.
Hetold the Press Association “This is a serious incident. The priority now is to identify the source of the infection and minimise the risk of spread to other extremely vulnerable babies in the unit.
“I have asked the trust to work with the Public Health Agency to ensure all necessary steps are swiftly taken to identify the source of the infection so that we contain it and reduce the risk of spreading. I have asked the Belfast Trust and the Public Health Agency to keep me fully informed.
“I have also directed the Health and Social Care Board to work with the trust to minimise any potential impact on the availability of neonatal intensive care cots.”