The New York Times reports on Tuesday that fatal bacteria infections are becoming a serious threat in the United States. The gut bug causes potentially deadly diarrhea, especially among the old and sick.
Nervous? Americans certainly have a reason to be. When the strongest antibiotics are not doing the trick there is reason to worry. Health officials warn on Tuesday that there is only a “limited window of opportunity” to halt their spread.
Even the “last resort” group of drugs (carbapenem) are failing against the bacteria. The scary part of this story is that when these resistant germs find their way into the lungs, urinary tract or bloodstream, the illness may be untreatable. To put this into perspective, you have a 50/50 chance of surviving a bloodstream infection. Who would want to fight those odds?
When the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refers to the organisms as “nightmare bacteria” you know it’s serious. Dr. Thomas R. Frieden was referring to the fact that the bacteria could pass their trait for drug resistance along to other bacteria.
Keep in mind that at this point the majority of people who have had the misfortune of contracting these infections are patients under medical care in hospitals and nursing homes. They are patients who already have other serious illnesses some of whom are in long-term care facilities.
Eighteen percent of hospitals nationwide reported cases in 2012 among long-term acute care facilities as opposed to four percent of short-stay hospitals.
Even though this appears to be a concern for anyone spending any amount of time in a hospital environment, it may just be a matter of time until it spreads into the general population. It certainly is a possibility.
Officials report that the problem is most common in the Northeast, particularly in hospitals in New York City. Other areas of the country are not exempt as forty-two states have had cases and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
The superbug MRSA found its way into the mainstream world and a 2012 study by researchers at the University Health System Consortium and University of Chicago Medicine, reported that the rate of MRSA infections recorded at U.S. academic hospitals doubled in the five years between 2003 and 2008.
What does this mean? This means nearly 1 in 20 in-patients are now either battling an invasive infection or carry the germ without suffering from any symptoms. It may be hard to believe but in each of the last three years, more MRSA-infected people have checked into the hospital than either HIV-positive or influenza-afflicted patients combined.
So what can people do to protect themselves from these superbugs? Recommendations are enough to put anyone with obsessive-compulsive disorder into a massive frenzy. Stock up on antibacterial soap, wash your hands and wash your hands and wash your hands. Repeat.
If you are going to be spending any time in any type of hospital setting as a patient or a visitor, take advantage of all the antibacterial gels along the walls and limit your contact with foreign objects that other people are touching as well.
There’s nothing earth-shattering about the advice so keep in mind that it’s all about common sense and and exercising caution without being neurotic.
The medical community carries the burden on this one. Hopefully hospitals will take the advice from experts to avoid spreading the bacteria to others. Determining those who are infected is a large part of the battle. Once care professionals know which patients are infected they’re advised to isolate them and assign dedicated care teams and equipment to infected people only.
Gone are the days when patients would rather put a fork in their eye than question a medical professional. Unfortunately, there are still plenty of folks that believe that it is disrespectful to speak up, but the truth of the matter is, no one should be afraid to ask questions.
Insist on medical professionals washing their hands before touching a patient; especially if that patient is you. Observe the use of gloves and masks and if they’re not being utilized, you have the right to question why. Being overly passive in this case can be a killer.
As you avoid becoming a victim of neglect, be sure not to beat up on the good people who are trying to heal others.