H-CENTRAL COAST

Mar 6, 2013 8:25 PM by Connie Tran, KSBY News

Few cases of deadly bacteria, known as CRE, found on Central Coast

A new family of bacteria, called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, is running rampant across hospitals and nursing homes across the country. It's so concerning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling it a superbug. The CDC calls the superbug a "nightmare", and one local hospital official on the Central Coast said it's worried that this particular class of bacteria could spread outside of hospital walls and nursing homes, directly into our community.

Penny Borenstein, San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer, said on Wednesday, "50% of people who become infected actually die."

Three cases of CRE have already been reported locally -- one in San Luis Obispo County and two in Santa Barbara County. The one in SLO County was reported at Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton, and the two in Santa Barbara County were reported at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara.

The CDC said if CRE's spread isn't contained, even common infections like diarrhea, urinary-tract infections, respiratory conditions, and pneumonia could become untreatable.

"This is an infection that primarily hits people who are already sick, and typically, by way of some device in their system, be it a respirator tube, or catheter for urine flow, or an IV, so the public doesn't generally stand a chance of contracting it at this point," said Borenstein.

What makes CRE a "nightmare", according to the CDC, is that it's untreatable, defying even the strongest antibiotics.

Borenstein said, "It's a sign that we are entering an era, or have been in an era for a while of antibiotics beginning to fail us, but in this case, it is with serious consequences."

Borenstein said locals shouldn't worry because CRE is not running rampant locally, but she and the CDC said it simply comes down to hygiene.

"Thus far, thankfully it's been fairly well contained, but the public awareness of the topic is important," said Borenstein.

She said all the local hospitals are aware of CRE and deal with the cases very carefully and aggressively, to make sure it doesn't spread.

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