Over the last week, much of the medical news coverage has been dedicated to the Ebola outbreak in Africa and the dangers posed to the population here in the U.S. While it’s certainly understandable why people would be concerned, many experts have indicated that the risk of an outbreak here are quite low.
In fact, some of these experts have suggested that there is currently a much bigger threat already here in the in U.S. that many medical facilities need to address with perhaps much greater effort.
The threat in question is actually the rise of so-called superbugs, which are antibiotic resistant infections responsible for thousands of deaths in hospitals and long-term care facilities each year.
In today’s post, we’ll take a closer look at three of the most virulent superbugs.
Common Virulent Superbugs in Hospitals & Care Facilities
Clostridium difficile, otherwise known as C. diff, has been linked to 14,000 deaths per year here in the U.S. In general, people can contract a C. diff infection after their mouths or mucous membranes come into contact with hands that have been contaminated with fecal bacteria. C. diff is frequently spread by healthcare workers to patients, and is most likely to affect either elderly people or those who take antibiotics and require regular medical care.
Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, otherwise known as CRE, is an infection that is frequently contracted by those who require hospitalization for a serious condition. While the exact figures on infection rates and fatalities remain unclear, it has been determined that CRE infections are rare yet incredibly deadly due to their resistance to nearly every — or all — types of antibiotics. Indeed, CRE has been found to kill half of all patients who develop bloodstream infections.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as MRSA, has been linked to 18,000 deaths per year here in the U.S. In general, patients can contract MRSA, a staph infection that is resistant to first-line antibiotics, from health care workers or visitors who unknowingly carry it on their body. Those with weakened immune systems are the most at risk of contracting MRSA.
While this is all certainly alarming, it’s important to note that experts indicate that the risk posed by these superbugs can be greatly reduced when medical facilities — particularly hospitals and long-term care facilities — implement the necessary sterilization procedures and health care workers follow the necessary hand sterilization techniques.
- The Courier-Journal, “Superbugs 101: What you need to know,” Laura Ungar, August 4, 2014