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CRE superbug: Medical experts evaluate the response to and implications of outbreak




Exterior view of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center during their Ebola virus readiness drill (closed to the media) to test their ability to diagnose and treat Ebola patients in Los Angeles on October 17, 2014.
Exterior view of the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center during their Ebola virus readiness drill (closed to the media) to test their ability to diagnose and treat Ebola patients in Los Angeles on October 17, 2014.
Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

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UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center says almost 180 patients may have been infected by a deadly superbug after being exposed to contaminated medical scopes.

The outbreak was discovered late last month while running tests on a patient, according to UCLA, and this week they started notifying 179 other patients who were treated between October and January. The superbug, known as CRE, is drug-resistant, and some estimates say that it has a 40-50 percent mortality rate if the infection spreads to the bloodstream. The medical equipment in question are special endoscopes that are inserted down the throats of hundreds of thousands of patients yearly to treat digestive issues. Medical experts say some of the scopes are notoriously hard to sanitize. Doctors at UCLA say they followed proper medical procedure in sanitizing the endoscopes, but somehow the bacteria survived.

How has the response been from UCLA to this point? Why didn’t the hospital start notifying patients as soon as they discovered the outbreak? Are hospitals and companies that make medical devices doing enough to protect patient safety? What is the effect on the medical industry and consumers from hospital-borne infections like this CRE superbug?

Guests:

Dr. Michael Gardam, MD, Director of Infection Prevention and Control at the University Health Network in Toronto, Canada; former Director of Infectious Disease Prevention & Control, Public Health Ontario (2008-2010)

Dr. Emily Landon, hospital epidemiologist at the University of Chicago Medical Center

Lisa McGiffert, director of the Safe Patient Project at Consumers Union - the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports