A potentially deadly bacteria which caused the deaths of four babies has been found at one of Northern Ireland’s main hospitals, it has emerged.
Traces of pseudomonas were detected in water dispensers at the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen.
The bacteria poses a threat to people with weak immune systems, such as the elderly, the sick or very young babies.
Last year it emerged four babies had died in Northern Ireland after developing pseudomonas infections. The first died after contracting the bug at the Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry while the other three died in January after catching a different strain at the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital in Belfast.
Health Minister Edwin Poots said he was aware of the situation and has asked staff at the Western Health Trust to keep him informed of developments.
Around 70 water dispensers at the hospital — which only opened last year — have been out of order since last Friday.
A memo sent to hospital staff stated the dispensers were out of use because of maintenance — but it has now emerged traces of pseudomonas were discovered.
Mr Poots urged people not to panic.
“I want to assure the public that this is an isolated issue pertaining only to water dispensers and not the main supply to the hospital and will not impact on patient care or safety,” he said. “I have asked the Western Trust to keep me updated on the situation.”
A spokesman for the Western Trust confirmed some dispensers had traces of pseudomonas.
“As a precautionary measure all water dispensers have been temporarily taken out of use for further review as of last Friday,” she said.
“These water dispensers will not be put back in use until a full review is complete.
“The public can be assured that this is not an issue with the water quality of the main water supply at the hospital but is an isolated issue with the water dispensers themselves and has had no impact on patient care.
“The hospital has a portable water supply which means all tap water is drinkable and adequate water jugs and disposable cups are available in all departments for use by staff, patients and visitors.”
Pseudomonas is a bacteria which multiplies in the lungs of people whose immune systems are weakened by illness or medication. It can be spread from person to person via unwashed hands. It can live for up to two-and-a-half hours. Symptoms of a pseudomonas chest infection can include increased coughing and tiredness.