The bacterial outbreak at a Los Angeles hospital highlights shortcomings in the federal government’s efforts to avert the most lethal hospital infections, which are becoming increasingly impervious to treatment.
Government efforts are hobbled, infection control experts say, by gaps in monitoring the prevalence of these germs both within hospitals and beyond. The continued overuse of antibiotics — due to over-prescription by doctors, patients’ insistence and the widespread use in animals and crops — has helped these bacteria evolve into more dangerous forms and flourish.
In the outbreak at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center, two patients have died and more than 100 may have been exposed to CRE, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria commonly found in the digestive tract. When this germ reaches the bloodstream, fatality rates are 40 percent. The government estimates about 9,000 infections, leading to 600 deaths, are caused each year by CRE, which stands for carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.
UCLA Health says the infections probably were passed around by inadequately sterilized scopes used to peer inside a body.
Previous CRE outbreaks have occurred elsewhere in the country, including hospitals in Illinois and Seattle.
The immediate public health response has focused on the safety of the scopes and tracking down people who may have been...
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