The Seattle Times reported this morning that there had been an outbreak of multidrug-resistant “superbug” infections spread by contaminated endoscopes between 2012 and 2014 in which at least 32 patients at Virginia Mason Medical Center were infected .
Neither the hospital nor health officials notified patients or the public, the Seattle Times reported.
In response to the paper’s report, Public Health – Seattle & King County has posted the following Q & A on its Public Health Insider blog:
Q & A about Public Health’s investigation of an endoscope associated outbreak
Voluntary reporting by Virginia Mason Medical Center led to identification of an outbreak of multidrug resistant bacterial infections in 2013. After months of investigative work, Public Health—working with Virginia Mason Medical Center, Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC)—linked the outbreak to a procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). Since discovering the risk from this procedure, our Communicable Disease Epidemiology staff has taken a leadership role in drawing national attention to this issue in the medical community. Dr. Jeff Duchin, Interim Health Officer and Chief of Communicable Disease Epidemiology answered questions about this outbreak.
What is an ERCP used for?
The ERCP procedure uses a scope, or tube, that goes through a patient’s mouth and throat to reach their upper small bowel and bile duct system. ERCP is used in persons with serious medical problems including cancers and other diseases that cause obstruction or narrowing of the bile ducts.
What kind of bacteria caused the infections?
Infections were caused by two closely-related types of bacteria that are resistant to many antibiotics. In some cases, the bacteria were also resistant to powerful antibiotics called carbapenems. These bacteria are referred to as CRE (carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae).
Was the outbreak caused by a CRE “superbug?”
No. The type of CRE that has caused outbreaks in other healthcare facilities has been referred to as a “CRE superbug.” It usually produces an enzyme that inactivates carbapenem antibiotics. The outbreak we investigated was not caused by this type of CRE, which did not have a carbapenemase enzyme.
What is the role of Public Health in this investigation? Continue reading