It is proposed that clinical advice on how to treat new mothers with sepsis is changed after two women died of a serious herpes virus infection whilst in hospital. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has advised that viral sources of infections should now be considered, and appropriate treatment offered.
Two mothers (Kimberly Sampson, 29, and Samantha Mulcahy, 32) died six weeks apart from an infection caused by the herpes virus after giving birth in two separate hospitals run by East Kent Hospitals Trust in 2018. It has been revealed by the BBC that both mothers underwent caesarean sections that were carried by the same surgeon.
Dr Rebecca Martin, Chief Medical Officer for East Kent Hospitals Trust, said that an investigation led by the Trust and the Healthcare Safety Investigation Board “concluded that it was not possible to identify the source of either infection”.
However, documents revealed by the BBC show that the East Kent Hospitals Trust had been told two weeks after the second death by a private laboratory that “it does look like surgical contamination”.
Mr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said routine investigation and management of maternal sepsis “should always consider viral sources of infection, and appropriate changes should be instituted to support earlier diagnosis and treatment“.
There are two types of herpes infection – the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). According to the World Health Organisation, HSV-1 affects 3.7 billion people in the world under the age of 50 years. HSV-2 affects 417 million people between the ages of 15 and 49 years.
Deaths caused by HSV-1, the infection responsible in these two cases, are almost unheard of in healthy people, but both mothers had what is known as a primary infection (meaning that this was the first time that they been infected by the herpes virus) which meant that they had no antibodies (or natural protection) against the virus. This, coupled with the fact that women in the late stages of pregnancy have reduced protein from their immune system, would have made them more vulnerable to a serious herpes virus infection. Unfortunately, both mothers were suspected as suffering from bacterial sepsis and were treated with antibiotics which did not work.
Through early identification of the source of the infection and provision of appropriate treatment thereafter, it is believed that catastrophic situations such as these can be avoided in the future.
We welcome the proposed changes here at Wolferstans as we recognise the devasting impact that infections can have on new-born babies and their mothers. We also have an experienced team of medical negligence lawyers who can provide help and support during these difficult times.
If you or your baby have suffered a maternal infection as a result of a medical mishap and would like to have a free, confidential discussion, then please contact our Client Services team on 01752 292201.