No Cases Reported
By Local Hospitals,
Regl. Official Says
BY O.J. EARLY
Greene County's two hospitals remain untouched by a deadly "superbug" that has become a serious health problem across the nation, an official with the Northeast Regional Health Office said Friday.
The superbug, called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), has struck so far only in hospitals and nursing homes and not in communities per se, according to Thomas Friden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Frieden spoke to members of the national news media earlier this week. His comments were reported in USA Today.
At present, the superbug is resistant to nearly all antibiotics, and is attacking persons with low-immune systems, Frieden said.
Individuals who have had extended stays in a hospital or nursing home are most at risk, he added.
Forty-two states have reported CRE-infections.
'IT IS A PROBLEM'
Dr. David Kirschke, medical director for the Tennessee Department of Health's East Tennessee regional office, is well-aware of the CRE infections.
"So far, there have not been any [CRE cases] officially reported [to the regional office]," Kirschke said in an interview with The Greeneville Sun on Friday afternoon.
He added, however, that two potential CRE cases are currently being investigated in Upper East Tennessee.
Tennessee is one of only six states in which hospitals are required to report CRE infections to the state health department.
In 2012, 221 CRE cases were reported in Tennessee, including 11 from Northeast Tennessee, he said.
"It is a problem. We do get cases in Northeast Tennessee," the director said. "It is something to be taken seriously."
He added: "The fact that we don't have any reported doesn't mean it won't happen. We are likely to see this organisim in Northeast Tennessee."
Nationally, several cities, including New York and Chicago, are already endemic with CRE infections, USA Today reported.
PRECAUTIONS BEING TAKEN
A spokesman for Takoma Regional Hospital said Friday that the hospital is taking precautions when it comes to the superbug.
"Our lab has a process for identifying CRE and would validate the result with an outside lab for confirmation.
"We use appropriate precautions for all patients, including strict adherence to effective hand-hygiene methods," Tina Chudina, the hospital's media relations coordinator, said Friday.
"We continue to maintain our education and close relationship to the CDC to ensure that we are providing safe and effective care."
Efforts on Friday to reach a spokesperson at Laughlin Memorial Hospital were unsuccessful.
'A TRIPLE THREAT'
According to Friden, the U.S. has only a small amount of time to contain the superbug spread.
"These are nightmare bacteria that present a triple threat," Friden told USA Today. "They're resistant to nearly all antibiotics. They have high mortality rates, killing half of people with serious infections. And they can spread their resistance to other bacteria."
If it is not stopped, a potential exists that CRE could share its resistance genes with more common types of bacteria, such as E. coli, he said.
"It's not very often that our scientists come to me and say, 'We have a very serious problem and we need to say something to save lives,' but that is what is happening," Friden told USA Today.