People in Chicago go to the hospital to get well, not get more sick. But infections can spread from patient to patient, sickening and sometimes killing people. Some of these outbreaks are not due to human error, but often they are caused by insufficent cleaning policies or negligent failure to keep beds, rooms and equipment as free of infection as possible.
Many of these hospital infection outbreaks are of drug-resistant bacteria that are difficult to treat once someone is infected. One such disease is called CRE. It comes from bacteria that live in the digestive tract. If allowed to spread, CRE can become resistant to antibiotics and infect other body parts.
Examples of CRE infection in hospitals have been reported in at least 43 states after first being discovered in 2001. The disease is fatal about half the time, depending in part on the strength of the victim’s immune system to fight off the infection. The illness is also common in nursing homes.
One woman developed CRE after undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumor. She was rushed back to the hosptial just weeks after the operation. The woman survived, but the disease is still inside her and will probably never go away, requiring her to take antibiotics the rest of her life just to keep it in check.
The U.S. Centers for Disase Control and Prevention recommends that medical facilities act aggressively to prevent CRE infection in the first place. But with cases arising in 4.6 percent of U.S. hospitals, it may be a long way to go before standards catch up to the problem in all facilities.
Source: CBS News, “Superbug poses danger in hospitals,” Jonathan LaPook, July 5, 2013