A highly resistant strain of bacteria contaminated hand-washing sinks in the intensive care unit at Melbourne's Dandenong Hospital, causing 10 patients to become ill. The bacteria, known as Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae or CRE, has also killed people overseas.
A report from the Medical Journal of Australia said that the hospital has been struggling to contain the multidrug-resistant bacteria since 2009, and 10 patients have been infected since then. Fortunately, no one has died from the infection.
Rhonda Stuart, an infectious disease specialist, said that CRE bacteria were found in sinks where the staff washed their hands. The hospital is preparing to replace the sinks, and in the meantime, are being cleaned regularly with 170-degree pressurized steam.
"No patients have tested positive for the bacteria since we've undertaken this process, so we're happy things have been controlled with the new steam technology," Ms Stuart said.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, the CRE family of germs are difficult to treat due to high levels of resistance to antibiotics.
Healthy people usually do not get CRE infections, but it commonly occurs among patients who are receiving treatment for other conditions. Infections with these germs can be deadly which contributes to death in up to 50 per cent of patients who became infected.
Transmission and Symptoms
CRE can spread from person to person by means of wounds or stool. The bacteria can also enter the body and cause infection through medical devices such as ventilators, intravenous catheters, urinary catheters, or wounds from injury or surgery. Most patients show no symptoms at all and only a CRE screening test can confirm the diagnosis.
Prevention and Treatment
CRE is very difficult to treat and antibiotics that work against it are limited. But there are ways to prevent the spread of infection.
What Should Hospitals Do?
- Hand hygiene must be imposed and alcohol-based hand sanitizer should be performed before and after caring for a patient
- Careful cleaning and disinfecting of rooms and medical equipment
- Wear gloves and a gown before entering the room of a CRE patient
- Isolate the patients with CRE in a single room or sharing a room with someone else who is infected
- Dedicate equipments and staff to CRE patients solely
- Prescribe antibiotics if only necessary
- Remove all temporary medical devices as soon as possible
What Patients Should Do?
- Tell your doctor if you have been hospitalized in another facility or country
- Take antibiotics only when prescribed
- Clean your own hands with soap and water or alcohol-based sanitizer
- Ask questions and understand what is being done to you including risks and benefits
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