Public health emergency declared after rise of superbug

A public health emergency has been declared to combat the spread of a potentially lethal superbug detected in 306 patients to the end of September.

Public health emergency declared after rise of superbug

A public health emergency has been declared to combat the spread of a potentially lethal superbug detected in 306 patients to the end of September, writes Catherine Shanahan.

CPE (carbapenemase-producing enterobacteriaceae), also referred to as carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE), is the newest in a long line of superbugs or bacteria that are almost impossible to kill with antibiotics and particularly problematic in hospital settings.

Health Protection Surveillance Centre figures for the year to the end of June show that hospital inpatients accounted for most cases (86), followed by outpatients (13), long-term care facility residents (3), and patients attending GPs (5).

Three of the patients died, although the centre said it is not known if CPE was the cause.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said that, having examined the issue with the National Patient Safety Office, he had concluded “patient safety issues are so important that this CPE public health emergency requires a co-ordinated whole system response”.

Hospitals reporting the highest numbers of inpatient cases in the first quarter were: Tallaght Hospital (24), Galway University Hospital (10), University Hospital Waterford (9), and University Hospital Limerick (9).

On foot of the “rapid and worrying increase in the incidence of CPE”, Health Minister Simon Harris has activated the National Public Health Emergency Plan and will convene the National Public Health Emergency Team next week.

The surveillance centre’s figures show 13 outbreaks since 2012, in seven hospitals and two nursing homes and a 6.5-fold increase in confirmed cases between 2013 (50) and 2016 (327).

This story originally appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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