New bug warning over heating birth pools as more cases found

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Health officials investigating a case of Legionnaires’ disease in a baby linked to a home birthing pool have found more contaminated pools.

Public Health England (PHE) has reiterated advice not to use pre-heated home birthing pools after more pools tested positive for Legionella, the bug which can cause Legionnaires’ disease.

Experts last month cautioned against the use of the pools after a baby contracted Legionnaires’ disease. The “severely ill” baby was being treated in intensive care but officials yesterday refused to give any update on the child’s health, saying the case was “now subject to a police investigation”.

As a result of the baby’s infection, the authority advised against the use of pools which have built-in heaters and recirculation pumps filled in advance of labour or birth at home.

PHE tested 10 heated birthing pools, from several suppliers. Results for six revealed four testing positive for Legionella. Three also tested positive for other potentially harmful organisms.

Prof Nick Phin, PHE’s head of Legionnaires’ disease, said: “These latest results have strengthened already serious concerns about the safety of heated birthing pools in the home setting and the potential for contamination from a number of organisms which are recognised causes of infection, and pose particular risks to newborn babies. We do not have concerns about purchased or hired pools that are filled from domestic hot water supplies at the onset of labour, provided that any pumps are used solely for pool emptying.”

Louise Silverton, of the Royal College of Midwives, added: “Women planning birth at home using a traditional pool that is filled when the woman is in labour or using a fixed pool in an NHS unit are not affected by this alert and should not be concerned.”