Local hospitals prevent against 'superbugs'

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Federal health officials say a deadly type of infection that is sometimes impossible to treat is on the rise in hospitals across the U.S.

It's been detected in medical facilities in 42 states, including Florida.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says so-called "superbugs" called carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, are dangerous.

They're found in operating rooms across the country, and doctors say even the most powerful antibiotics can't treat them.

"We worry about having an outbreak and spreading it to other patients," said Ashley Lloyd, who's in charge of infection prevention at Memorial Hospital.

She said her facility is safe and it's not seeing an issue with drug-resistant bacteria, but the hospital isn't taking any chances.

"Hand hygiene is the No. 1 way to stop the spread of infections," Lloyd said. "Anytime we identify that a patient has a multi-drug resistant organism, we put them in contact isolation, personal protective equipment like gowns and gloves, masks, if needed."

The CDC's new vital signs report shows CRE cases have quadrupled in the last decade. Doctors say CRE is caused by a family of germs that normally live in the digestive system but can cause infection when they get into the bladder, blood or other areas where they don't belong.

The CDC says the germs kill up to half of patients who get the infection in their bloodstream and can spread antibiotic resistance to other germs, which could make routine bladder or wound infections at some hospitals deadly.

"In between our procedures, we are wiping down all flat surfaces, wiping down operating room lights and any soiled equipment," said Marilyn Main, Shands Jacksonville Medical Center's director of perioperative services.

At Shands, infection prevention is a top priority. The facility says it follows the CDC's aggressive "detect and protect" action plan, which includes mandatory hand washing, screening patients and reducing unnecessary antiobiotic use.

Starting next week, the hospital will begin using a new robot that can quickly disinfect the operating room in 10 minutes using an ultraviolet light.

"It's been proven to keep our patients safer," Main said.

The CDC says it's also up to patients to protect against CRE by letting their doctor know if they were hospitalized in another facility, by taking their antibiotics correctly, and by making sure that in the hospital people wash their hands or wear gloves before touching a patient.

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