PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The cardiothoracic intensive care unit at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital has been shut down due to mold concerns.

One of the doctors found mold, a fungal infection, in the wound of a transplant patient. Immunocompromised patients are at risk for this kind of infection.

18 patients had to be moved to other parts of the hospital.

Mold is found in the environment and in buildings. an outside remediation company is working on correcting the problem.

Brandon Schwab is a mold remediation contractor not involved in the UPMC situation, but he has worked on nursing homes. After identifying and eliminating the source of moisture, the clean up can be complicated. This involves a containment zone and negative pressure.

“Usually you can do it with HEPA negative air machines, or you’ll set up a fan going to the outside,” he explains.”In a hospital they might want to consider using hydrogen peroxide, because there’s no offgassing of chemicals when it dries. ”

The exact type of mold or fungus hasn’t been disclosed, but several types can cause severe disease in humans. They can infect the lungs, the skin, the brain depending on how the fungus gets into the body. Depending on the type and the health condition of the patient, these infections can be deadly, though there are antifungal medicines to treat the illness.

UPMC has notified the affected patients and families and the appropriate regulators. Such issues are reportable to the state Department of Health, but typically does not involve sampling because there are no federal standards and sensitivity to mold varies.

“If you look at the EPA and CDC web sites, sampling is not routinely recommended,” says Dave Namey of the Allegheny County Health Department’s Housing and Community Environment Program.

The fungus is not a threat to healthy patients and staff, who encounter environmental mold every day.

“Depending on the scope of the work, typical mold remediation project is two to three days,” says Schwab. “They might also want to filter the air for an additional two to three days after the job’s complete.”

No reopening date for the intensive care unit has yet been determined.

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Heather Abraham