Superbugs in California Hospitals
In early 2011, an article published in the Los Angeles Times reported that superbugs were spreading to hospitals in Southern California and that at the time, at least 350 cases of CRKP (carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae) had been reported at facilities in Los Angeles County.
That was more than five years ago, leading to the assumption that by now, in late 2016, the problem would be under control. However, superbugs in California healthcare facilities are proliferating quickly, eliciting a strong response from affected patients, health officials, and lawmakers.Superbugs in California Continue to Infect Patients
In February 2015, The New York Times reported on the University of California - Los Angeles’ report of an outbreak of CRE (carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae), which had infected at least seven patients, and resulted in the death of two. The report estimates that at least 100 patients had been exposed to the bacteria as a result of contaminated medical instruments, with another report stating that the number of exposed patients was as high as 160. The outbreak occurred at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
Shortly after the February outbreak, another outbreak at a different California hospital was reported: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. At the time of the outbreak, which was covered by NBC News, CRE had been identified in four patients, all of whom had been treated with the use of duodenoscopes which were believed to be contaminated with the bacteria.
But it doesn’t end there; an article published in the Los Angeles Times in October of 2016 reports, “No one knows how many patients are dying from superbug infections in California hospitals.” The article reads that “Many thousands of Californians are dying every year from infections they caught while in hospitals.” Because the state of California does not require hospitals to track the number of deaths associated with healthcare-acquired infections, it is hard to determine the exact number of cases. Based on data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though, which estimates that about 75,000 Americans die every year from hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), a reasonable estimate for the number of deaths from HAIs in California is approximately 7,500-9,000 per year (this estimate is based on the fact that the state of California provides between 10 and 12 percent of all hospital care throughout the nation).What Makes Superbugs “Super?”
Not only are superbug infections dangerous for patients in hospitals, who often have compromised immune systems anyway, and therefore have a harder time fighting off the infections, but they are also incredibly difficult to treat using antibiotics. In fact, superbugs’ resistance to antibiotics is what makes them so ‘super’. Some superbugs to watch out for, which can cause serious health problems for a patient, or even result in death in the most severe of cases, include:
- Klebsiella pneumoniae;
- Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA);
- Clostridium difficile;
- Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis;
- Drug-resistant gonorrhea; and
- Shiga toxin-producing E. coli.
If you are seeking care in a hospital in Oakland or elsewhere in the state of California, or if your loved one requires hospital care, you may very well have some valid concerns about superbugs. You can reduce your risk of contracting a superbug infection by:
- Asking a doctor or nurse to please wash their hands (where you can see) before treating you or handling medical equipment;
- Asking frequently about your need for a catheter - the longer a catheter is in place, the greater the risk of infection;
- Reporting any signs of infection to your doctor, such as diarrhea;
- Washing your hands; and
- Asking questions and being engaged in the process, especially if you will be undergoing an intensive medical procedure like surgery.
California hospitals can do more to prevent the spread of superbugs. This might include changes as minor as ensuring that healthcare providers wash their hands frequently, especially between patients.
If you or a loved one does contract a superbug infection as a result of a hospital care, you have rights under the law. If the infection was the direct result of medical malpractice - as it almost always is - you might be able to collect damages for your losses. At the law offices of Corsiglia McMahon & Allard, L.L.P, our passionate San Jose medical malpractice attorneys, serving Oakland and the surrounding areas, are here to serve you. To determine if you have a case, please call our law offices today at (408) 289-1417 to schedule your initial case consultation.