9 die from 26 super-bug infections

Health Dept confirms CRE outbreak in Sibu Hospital, assures all necessary steps taken to prevent spread

KUCHING: The State Health Department yesterday admitted that 26 cases of ‘super-bug’ Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobaceriaceae (CRE) infections have been recorded between January and July in Sibu Hospital after initially denying any outbreak of these cases in an earlier statement.

Bukit Asset assemblyman Wong Ho Leng had issued a press statement on Wednesday, demanding the Health Ministry explain the outbreak of ‘superbug’ infection in Sibu Hospital.

In a statement confirming the cases yesterday, State Health director, Datu Dr Zulkifli Jantan said out of these cases, nine had resulted in deaths but these fatalities had yet to be audited to confirm they were cases of direct infection of CRE.

“All the nine deaths involved patients who might have died from their underlying illnesses or pre-existing complications.

“So at the moment, we do not know the exact figure for deaths directly caused by CRE,” Dr Zulkifli told The Borneo Post yesterday.

He said measures had been taken by Sibu Hospital that involved the intensification of infection control activities on patients, staff and wards to arrest the outbreak.

“However, whatever measures taken do not necessary have to be made known to the public. We just handle it. There will be specific steps to take and we have taken all of them,” said Dr Zulkifli.

The first step was to inform the staff so patients would be handled with caution, he added.

“We also need to do surveillance where patients would be swapped to grow bacteria for observation.”

Dr Zulkifli reiterated that such incidents could happen in any hospital. Apart from CRE, there were other bacteria which might develop resistance to other antibiotics.

So far only Sibu Hospital had recorded the outbreak of CRE infections and Dr Zulkifli confirmed no outbreak had been reported in all the other hospitals in the state including Sarawak General Hospital in Kuching, Miri Hospital and Bintulu Hospital.

Dr Zulkifli will call for a press conference today for full explanation and field questions from the media.

US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta has sounded an alarm of CRE earlier this year.

CREs cause bladder, lung and blood infections that can spiral into life-threatening septic shock. They evade the action of almost all antibiotics – including the carbapenems, which are considered drugs of last resort – and kill up to half of all patients who contract them, according to Nature, an international weekly journal of science.

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