Early Disease Detection Health & Wellness

CDC Issues Warning Over ‘Nightmare Bacteria’ Spreading in U.S. Hospitals

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says drug-resistant bacteria is on the rise and causing more hospitalized patients to get untreatable infections.

According to the latest CDC Vital Signs,  carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) is bacteria that “our strongest antibiotics don’t work” on, leaving patients with infections that are impossible to treat.

CDC Director Tom Frieden said vulnerable targets of the so-called nightmare bacteria are people receiving complex or long-term medical care — patients in regular hospitals or long-term acute care hospitals, or nursing homes. The bacteria is usually transmitted from person-to-person, often on the hands of health care workers. CRE germs kill up to half of patients who get bloodstream infections from them.

During the first half of 2012, about 4 percent of the 4,000 hospitals in the country had at least one patient with a serious CRE infection. About 18 percent of the country’s 200 long-term acute care hospitals had one patient with CRE infection.

“Doctors, nurses, hospital leaders, and public health, must work together now to implement CDC’s ‘detect and protect’ strategy and stop these infections from spreading,” Frieden said.

A press briefing was held early this week where Frieden describes the “detect and protect” approach as follows:

“There are six important steps that healthcare providers can take.  The first two are in the “detect” part of this equation.  The last four are in the “protect” part of it.  The first two are, first, know if your patients have CRE, and request immediate alerts from your laboratory every time they identify a patient with CRE.”

“Second, when either receiving or transferring patients, make sure to ask and find out if the patient you’re receiving has CRE.  Third, in the “protect” area, protect your patients from CRE by following contact and other precautions whenever you’re getting patients with CRE, so you don’t inadvertently spread their organism to others.  Fourth, whenever possible, have specific rooms, equipment, and staff equipped for CRE patients.  That reduces the chance CRE will spread from one patient to others.  Fifth, take out temporary medical devices like catheters as soon as possible.  And finally, and very importantly, prescribe antibiotics carefully.”

“Unfortunately, half of all of the antibiotics prescribed in this country are either unnecessary or inappropriate.”

So far, Tennessee, Oregon, Minnesota, Colorado, Wisconsin and North Dakota have already mandated reporting for CRE cases, which Frieden says is helpful in finding out “all the cases in a community.”

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