An emerging drug-resistant "superbug" is steadily increasing in hospitals across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, is difficult to treat because it is resistant to almost all antibiotic treatments. It was first identified in the United States in 2001 and has been steadily increasing in the last decade.
"People haven't been taking the precautions necessary to prevent the prevalence of this type of infection, and that's why it's rising across the nation," said Dr. Rahul Gupta, health officer and executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
Healthy people usually do not get infected with CRE. CRE infections most commonly occur in people who are receiving treatment for other conditions. This particular bacteria most often affects people with underlying health conditions, who have been hospitalized for a long period of time or who live in a nursing home, according to Gupta.
Patients who use ventilators, urinary catheters, intravenous catheters or long courses of certain antibiotics are most at risk for CRE infections, according to the CDC.
CRE infections have high mortality rates, causing death in nearly 50 percent of people with serious infections, and the resistance can spread to other bacteria. At this time, CRE doesn't spread easily from person to person like other types of bacteria can, like the bacteria that causes pink eye or strep throat.
"CRE infections have been on our radar for several years in Kanawha County," said Janet Briscoe, director of the Division of Epidemiology at Kanawha Charleston Health Department. "Since early 2011, we've been working closely with the hospitals and nursing homes in our county to ensure that health care staffs are knowledgeable and trained to prevent CRE infections among their patients."
The health department's Division of Epidemiology had training for long-term care facilities in June 2011 and hosted a second training on the topic in August 2012 for infection prevention personnel from area hospitals and nursing homes.
Health care facilities and providers are not required to report CRE cases to local health departments, so it's difficult to obtain solid numbers about how many CRE infections are occurring locally or nationally. As cases continued to arise in Kanawha County, the health department is working with providers to prevent additional transmission of the bacteria, Briscoe said.