Superbug Highlights risk of Hospital Infections

by Eric Pearson

According to a just-released scientific paper, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria called by some a “superbug” spread through the National Institute of Health’s Clinical Center last year, killing six patients. The outbreak of the Klebsiella pneumonia virus had not previously been reported.

According to the recent paper, the hospital staff was forced to resort to extreme measures to stave off the infection. This was “the proverbial superbug that we’ve all worried about for a long time,” said Tara Palmore, an infection control specialist at the Bethesda hospital. The hospital staff reacted to the outbreak by building a wall to isolate patients, gassing rooms with vaporized disinfectant and even ripping out plumbing.

The NIH staffers eventually quelled the spread of the bacteria by using advanced genome sequencing to trace its origin. The NIH Clinical Center now screens every patient transferring from another facility for superbugs, tests every patient in the intensive care unit twice a week and screens every patient monthly.

Unfortunately, some 1.7 million people acquire a hospital-borne virus each year in the U.S., nearly 1 out of every 20 patients. Many of these patients are admitted to the hospital injured, debilitated or sick, their immune systems compromised, making them easily susceptible to an infection. Others in the hospital, some sick and others healthy, introduce the pathogen by touching the patient. The results are often fatal; according the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), some 100,000 U.S. deaths each year are attributed to hospital-borne infections.

The CDC has found that most of these deadly infections are preventable. Some steps it recommends to cut the risk of a hospital infection include:

  • avoid shaking hands with or touching doctors and patients
  • wash your hands whenever possible
  • ask your caregivers to wear gloves
  • make sure that IVs are inserted and removed under clean conditions and changed every three to four days
  • make sure you stay warm, which may help stave off surgical infections
  • ask your doctor about his infection rate and choose a surgeon with a low infection rate

If you or a loved has suffered serious injury or death from a hospital-acquired infection, you may be entitled to compensation. To find out if you may have a case, call us toll-free at 1-877-446-9001 or fill out our free online case evaluation questionnaire, and one of our representatives will contact you for more information.

by Eric Pearson

Eric Pearson is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P who handles commercial and personal injury lawsuits. Eric has been selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication.