Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 24, 2013

Munson ready for superbug

TRAVERSE CITY — A “nightmare” superbug that is impervious to antibiotics has appeared in more than 200 hospitals across the country, but Munson Medical Center and area nursing homes aren’t yet among them.

But Munson Medical Center is ready to respond with strict procedures already in place, said David Martin, an infectious disease specialist and a Munson Medical Center employee.

“Our biggest problem is we don’t have any drugs to treat it with,” Martin said. “So if a patient develops an infection with it, we’ll have a tough time treating it, that’s for sure.”

The Centers for Disease Control recently issued a public warning about Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), a family of more than 70 bacteria. In recent years, some strains failed to succumb to last-resort antibiotics known as carbapenems.

“CRE are nightmare bacteria,” said CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden in a news release. “Our strongest antibiotics don’t work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections.”

Munson’s only contact with the bacteria occurred two years ago when its lab isolated a bacterial strain from an outpatient, Martin said.

CRE kills about half the people it infects. It’s not highly contagious — acquired by touch, not through air — and Munson plans to contain it with the same safeguards it uses for MRSA, a more treatable superbug.

Martin said infectious patients are isolated in a private room. Staff and visitors must wear a gown, gloves, and sometimes a mask. Hand washing is a must, and family members are advised to touch the patient only with gloves, and preferably not at all.

“There are unique situations. If we know a patient is terminal, and the spouse is right there. ‘I know I’m taking a risk, but I want to kiss my husband one more time’”, Martin said.

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