New Superbug Sweeping Hospitals

February 28, 2013

Raspberry YogurtCarbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) is a superbug with a mortality rate of almost 50%, and enough cases have surfaced in the last year that the CDC is reminding doctors of the guidelines for handling CRE in an effort to contain it (treating doctors, nearby patients, etc. are all at risk of catching it).

CRE is resistant to some of the strongest antibiotics we have currently, making it very difficult to treat. That’s why the CDC emphasizes prevention, tagging and isolating patients who have the infection, and encouraging frequent hand washing.

Unfortunately, some of the guidelines—like having different doctors for patients with and without a CRE infection—aren’t actually that practical in the current healthcare system, where there are too few doctors, and those there are overtaxed (the number of new doctors each year has had the same cap for the last few decades, creating a huge imbalance against the growing population).

The number of cases of CRE nationally isn’t well tracked—it’s often not the primary reason a person is in a hospital, but a secondary infection that crops up as you receive treatment. Taking heavy doses of antibiotics (as well as some other heavy duty treatments) can cause CRE to crop up. (This makes sense—CRE lives in the gut, so killing your beneficial bacteria with antibiotics can leave a hole for more virulent bacteria to fill.)

What precautions do you take in hospitals to avoid hospital acquired infections? (Like having a friend bring you yogurt?)

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