Los Angeles County intends to require all hospitals in the county to report infections caused by a class of "superbug" antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a senior public health official said Thursday.
Interim County Health Officer Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser plans to make it mandatory for hospitals to report cases of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, according to Dawn Terashita, interim deputy director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health's acute communicable disease control program.
Gunzenhauser is expected to issue the order in the next few months, she told KPCC.
CRE reporting is currently voluntary in L.A. County. About 40 of the county's roughly 100 hospitals voluntarily report infections to Public Health, said Terashita.
Medical facilities have been required to report outbreaks - two or more cases in the same facility - but having them report all CRE infections will, "add additional information and perhaps more timely information for us," Terashita said.
The county will use the data to identify clusters of infections in a facility or a specific unit within a facility, which will enable a quicker response, she said.
Public Health will be able to more closely track infection trends, which patients and facilities are most at risk and emerging strains of CRE, said Terashita, adding that this will allow officials to better focus prevention efforts.
The Orange County Health Care Agency has required all hospitals to report CRE infections since July, according to spokeswoman Jessica Good. Officials from the Riverside and San Bernardino county health departments didn't respond to requests for comment.
The California Hospital Association doesn't track what's happening at the local level with regard to CRE reporting, so it has no position on whether it should be voluntary or mandatory, said spokeswoman Jan Emerson-Shea.
It's unknown how many Californians are killed by CRE, because the state does not track deaths from hospital-acquired infections.
CRE are a family of germs that are difficult to treat because they have developed a high level of antibiotic resistance, according to the CDC. People typically acquire CRE in healthcare settings; patients who use ventilators, catheters, and those on long courses of certain antibiotics are at the highest risk for infection.
The LA Times reported last weekend that thousands of deaths from hospital-acquired infections are going unreported. It noted that Los Angeles is one of the counties that don't require healthcare facilities to report infections.
But Terashita said this policy change was under consideration since 2012, long before the Times article. That was when the county ended a two-year experiment that required hospitals to report infections from a type of CRE - carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumonia.
The discussions escalated about two years ago, after the county received a CDC grant to more intensively monitor CRE infections, she said.