Be afraid, be very afraid, of a new superbug coming to a hospital near you, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned today. The germs, called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, are resistant to nearly all available antibiotics and infections can be fatal up to 50 percent of the time.
In a report issued on Wednesday, the CDC announced that infections with the germ in hospitalized patients have been rising in recent years, with 18 percent of long-term acute care hospitals and about 4 percent of short-stay hospitals in the United States having at least one CRE infection during the first half of 2012.
While healthy folks don’t need to worry about these bacteria, patients who are hospitalized can take certain precautions to reduce their risk of infection.
The CDC recommends the following:
1. Tell your doctor if you have been hospitalized in another facility or country.
2. Take antibiotics only as prescribed.
3. Insist that caregivers and visitors wash their hands with soap and water or an antibacterial cleanser before touching you or tubes going into your body.
4. Clean your own hands often, especially before eating food, after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose, changing a wound dressing, or using the bathroom.
Doctors should take precautions as well, by knowing whether patients with CRE are hospitalized at their facility, asking whether patients received medical care at another institution, prescribing antibiotics wisely, and following infection control recommendations.