Last week, it was reported that almost 180 patients at a California hospital were exposed to a potentially deadly “superbug.” The superbug was located on contaminated medical instruments and infected seven patients. Two of those patients died and their deaths may have been a result of the contamination.

A total of 179 patients at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center were exposed to bacteria called Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). These bacteria are antibiotic-resistant. CRE can contribute to death in up to half of patients who have serious infections. CRE causes infections in the bladder or lungs, which can lead to chills, fever, or coughing. The patients were exposed during endoscopic procedures that occurred between October 2014 and January 2015.

The infections may have been transmitted through specialized endoscopes that were used during the diagnosis and treatment of problems with the pancreas and bile duct. These instruments are inserted into the patients’ throats. The bacteria outbreak was discovered in late January during tests on a patient. Medical devices used during those procedures may have carried the bacteria, even though they were sterilized according to the manufacturer’s specifications. The medical devices have been removed and the hospital’s decontamination procedures have been improved.

Every patient who had that particular type of procedure was notified. Those patients who were exposed are being sent free home-testing kits for the hospital to analyze. The hospital used seven different scopes to perform the procedure and only two of the scopes were found to be infected. As a result of the outbreak, the Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory warning to doctors that even when a manufacturer’s cleaning instructions are followed, infectious germs could remain in the devices. It can be very tough to completely disinfect medical devices with very small parts and a complex design.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not keep national numbers on the outbreak of the bacteria, but 47 states have seen cases. Alaska, Idaho, and Maine have not had any reported CRE infections. One hospital in Seattle reported in January that 35 patients were sickened by CRE that was linked to an endoscope. Eleven of those patients died, but it’s not clear whether the bacteria played a role in their deaths. The patients who had the procedures done were already suffering from health issues.

More and more reports of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics have been making the news in recent years. Some blame the emergence of these bacteria on our country’s overuse of antibiotics. Whatever the reason, hospitals and doctors’ offices have a duty to take steps to protect their patients from becoming infected with these bacteria. If a patient does become infected with bacteria in a medical facility, the patient can hold that facility legally liable for damages. The damages may be very minor and not worth pursuing a case over, or they could be large, in the case of someone who has been seriously sickened or even killed by the bacteria.

At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that medical professionals owe a duty to their patients to keep them safe from harm. If you were a patient at a hospital or doctor’s office, and were infected with drug resistant bacteria as a result, you may have a case for medical malpractice. You may be entitled to damages for your medical expenses, time off work, pain and suffering, and more. Call Micha Star Liberty, San Francisco medical malpractice attorney, at 415-896-1000 or 510-645-1000. She works with clients throughout the San Francisco-Oakland area, including Hayward, Fairfield, Tracy, Berkeley, Sacramento, and the surrounding areas. Call today to schedule your free consultation.

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