A deadly and potentially untreatable new form of bacteria is increasingly being seen in hospital patients throughout the United States, posing a serious health risk that requires immediate measures to prevent the spread of the hospital infections, according to federal health officials.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning on March 5, calling on hospitals and long-term facilities, like nursing homes, to take immediate steps to halt the spread of Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE).
The antibiotic-resistant infections are fatal in up to half the patients who are diagnosed with CRE bloodstream infections, and in many cases they resist all forms of treatment.
“CRE are nightmare bacteria. Our strongest antibiotics don’t work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., in the agency’s warning. “Doctors, hospital leaders, and public health, must work together now to implement CDC’s ‘detect and protect’ strategy and stop these infections from spreading.”
The CDC has tracked one type of CRE from its first detection in one hospital to hospital infections in 42 states. The CDC reports that during the first half of 2012, four percent of hospitals, and 18% of long-term acute care facilities, had at least one patient with a CRE infection.
While often untreatable, the spread of CRE can be controlled, which other countries have shown. Israel used coordinated efforts in 27 hospitals to drop the spread of CRE by 27%.
The CDC has released a list of preventative measures that hospitals and long-term care facilities should be using to prevent the spread of the deadly bacteria:
- Enforcing the use of infection control precautions
- Grouping together patients with CRE
- Dedicating specific staff, rooms and equipment solely to the treatment of patients with CRE when possible
- Having facilities issue alerts to one another when transferring a CRE-infected patient
- Asking patients if they have received care at other facilities or in other countries
- Careful use of antibiotics
- Screening patients whose circumstances increase the risk of having a CRE infection
Many patients acquire infections from bacteria entering the bloodstream through surgical incisions, catheters or wounds, approximately five percent of hospitalized patients according to the CDC.
In recent years, there have been an increasing number of hospital infection lawsuits filed throughout the United States, as growing number of experts believe that many of these potentially-life-threatening infections that develop in hospitals or medical centers can be prevented if certain steps are taken by the facility and staff.