Chicago Hospital Experiences Biggest Outbreak of Rare Deadly Bacteria Ever

Chicago Hospital Experience Biggest Outbreak of Rare Deadly Bacteria EverA Chicago hospital has experienced the biggest outbreak ever reported of a rare but potentially deadly bacteria, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The bacteria have been linked to medical equipment at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, which is just north of the city.

The CDC stated that there were nearly 45 cases of infection caused by the bacteria, which is known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE. All the individuals infected had received what was considered fairly routine endoscopic procedures of the pancreas or its bile ducts between the months of Jan. and Sept. in 2013. The outbreak is from a type of CRE called NDM-1, an enzyme which causes the bacteria to be resistant to antibiotics.

This is the biggest outbreak ever in the United States, stated Alex Kallen, who is an infectious diseases doctor. He worked as the administrator of this CDC investigation.

All in all, there have only been about 95 documented infection cases of CRE since the bacteria was discovered back in 2009. Prior to this huge occurrence, the largest collection of reported cases was only 10 and that was in Denver, Colorado in 2012.

The Chicago hospital first found out it had a problem about six months ago, when numerous patients came back to the hospital with CRE infections. An investigation was conducted, which showed a link between the endoscopy and the CRE infections. Officials discovered that they were facing the biggest outbreak ever of the rare, deadly bacteria.

CRE is a bacterium which is from a family of more than 70 different bacteria from the E. coli family. CRE usually resides in the body’s digestive system, and most often causes urinary tract infections in individuals. If it is not identified quickly enough, the bacteria can enter into the bloodstream. If the CRE infection goes to that stage, the patient then has up to a 50 percent chance of death, declared the CDC. The bacterium is mostly found in people who live in settings such as nursing homes, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).

If any of these cases from the Chicago hospital resulted in fatalities, it was not reported by the CDC.

Chicago hospital officials said all the patients who had had an endoscopy during that time frame were sent registered letters instructing them to return to the hospital for further screenings. There were over 100 patients who have already done so and there are more screenings planned, the hospital stated.

The CDC stated that the hospital staff had done the proper measures, as they disinfected the scopes which ended up testing positive for CRE. Since that time, the Chicago area hospital has changed from manual disinfection to a type of gas disinfection. In order to guarantee that no other patients are at risk, the hospital has switched to gas sterilization for these types of scopes, which exceed the manufacturer’s suggested cleaning and disinfecting procedures. Gas sterilization is typically used for cleaning inside operating rooms.

It remains unclear, however, how the bacteria spread from the scopes. As a result, the CDC, the IDPH and the Federal Drug Administration will continue their in-depth investigations of the Chicago hospital which experienced the biggest outbreak ever of the rare, deadly bacteria.

By Kimberly Ruble


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