Officials at area hospitals say they’ve seen very few infections from “nightmare bacteria” that prompted national warnings earlier this week, and they’re doing everything they can to keep it that way.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week issued a warning about a class of superbug infecting patients in hospitals, long-term care facilities and nursing homes across the nation. Because these bacteria can withstand even the strongest type of antibiotics, called carbapenems, they’ve earned the name carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE.
The germs are still rare, the CDC reported, but they can kill about half of patients who develop a severe infection. Because of that, the CDC is warning hospitals to do everything they can to keep the superbug from becoming more common.
At Lawrence Memorial Hospital, no patients have been infected with CRE, said infection preventionist Humbelina Harper. But bacteria resistant to antibiotics already present a constant struggle for the hospital, Harper said, and LMH is well-prepared.
“We’re ready for them,” Harper said.
At Kansas University Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., officials have detected a handful of infections from carbapenem-resistant bacteria in the past year — fewer than 10, said Rebecca Horvat, a clinical microbiologist for the KU Medical Center who assists the hospital in detecting infections. None of the infected patients died, Horvat said.
Both hospitals have procedures in place to detect these bugs and isolate any patient found to have an infection. The hospitals always emphasize cleanliness and hand hygiene.
Those are all recommendations from the CDC. Another is to be careful with the use of antibiotics. If they’re not given to patients in a specific, targeted manner, or if patients don’t take them correctly, it can open a window for more bugs to develop a resistance.
“They’re just adapting and learning how to deal with the mechanisms we’ve created to kill them,” Harper said.
Because of that, LMH has a committee with representatives from different departments to make sure antibiotics are being used the right way.
CRE infections are not nearly as common as those from MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, another antibiotic-resistant bug, Horvat said. Hospital officials are working to keep it that way.
“We want to work on it now and make sure it doesn’t become a big problem,” Horvat said.
Ever since antibiotics were developed, she said, hospitals have battled to outrace the bacteria that have evolved to resist them. “This is a major concern,” Horvat said. “This is something we’ve been struggling with, as you know, for years.”
Horvat and Harper both said the general public, too, should be vigilant about hand-washing, refrain from taking antibiotics when it’s not needed and follow directions when they are needed.