A BOY aged 10 died at Scotland's flagship hospital after contracting an infection linked to pigeon droppings, the Herald can reveal.

The Crown Office confirmed that it was investigating the death.

It comes after Health Secretary Jeane Freeman told MSPs on Tuesday that a child was one of two patients who had died after testing positive for the fungus, Cryptococcus, at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

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The boy is understood to have been a cancer patient who was being treated at the adult hospital, instead of the adjacent children's hospital, due to previous issues with bacteria in the water at the Royal Hospital for Children.

It is unknown whether the boy had previously been a patient at the RHC and was transferred to the Queen Elizabeth, or whether he had been admitted more recently to the adult hospital. 

The cryptococcal infection was described as a "contributory factor" in the child's death.

Until now, no other details of the patient had been released.

A spokesman for the Crown Office said: “The Procurator Fiscal received a report in connection with the death of a 10 year-old boy at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in December 2018.

“The investigation into the death, under the direction of Scottish Fatalities Investigation Unit (SFIU), is ongoing and the family will be kept updated in relation to any significant developments.”

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The boy - believed to be from the Grampian area - is one of two patients to date who has died while infected with Cryptococcus, an airborne bug originating in pigeon droppings which is believed to have been spread through the hospital's ventilation system.

A hospital source previously told our sister paper, The Evening Times, that the room where the child was being treated should have been fitted with a HEPA air filter as a precaution, to trap potentially harmful particles. 

The health board said portable HEPA filters are now being installed in “all the rooms identified as requiring them” as part of additional infection control measures following the deaths, but would not comment on the child’s case.

The same source said the hospital's 12th floor plant room – which contains air conditioning and ventilation equipment – was in a “filthy” state and "infested" with droppings and pigeon feathers. 

A second elderly woman who tested positive for Cryptococcus in November was already seriously ill. She died in January, but the cause of death was said to be unrelated to the infection.

The Crown Office said it has "not yet received a report concerning the death of this woman at the same location in January of this year but we have requested further information".

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Child cancer patients were moved out of wards 2A and 2B of the RHC in September due to recurring problems with the water supply. 

In the first six months of 2018, a number of children were treated for blood infections linked to bacteria in the water supply.

The bacteria would be harmless for most people, but posed a danger in people whose immune systems are weaker, for example as a result of chemotherapy. 

Extensive work was carried out to replace the metal parts inside taps with plastic ones, fitting filters to the taps, and disinfecting the drains with a chlorine-based detergent and cleaning with Hydrogen Peroxide Vapour (HPV). 

However, in September 2018 it emerged that six new patients from wards 2A and 2B had fallen ill and an incident management team was appointed.