Tuesday 11 December 2018

Gridlocked hospitals now hit by a 'nightmare' superbug

'Overcrowding in hospitals remained at a high level yesterday with 534 people on trolleys waiting for a bed' (stock photo)
'Overcrowding in hospitals remained at a high level yesterday with 534 people on trolleys waiting for a bed' (stock photo)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Hospitals battling the flu and trolley crisis have also been hit with outbreaks of a dangerous superbug in recent weeks.

There have been 21 cases of the potentially lethal superbug CPE - described as the "nightmare bacteria" by doctors because of the difficulty in treating it.

A Department of Health-led expert group set up late last year to draw up plans to combat the growing threat faced by hospitals from the infection was told there were 11 cases detected in the past week.

The emergence of cases of the lethal infection heaps more pressure on hospitals because of the need to isolate patients at a time when these facilities are already needed to prevent the spread of flu.

Overcrowding in hospitals remained at a high level yesterday with 534 people on trolleys waiting for a bed, including 52 in University Hospital Limerick and 32 at Naas General Hospital.

CPE is a superbug that is carried in the bowel and can cause blood stream infections in people who are vulnerable, such as the elderly and those with low immunity.

It can be resistant to most, and sometimes all, available antibiotics.

More than half of all patients who develop blood stream infections with CPE die as a result of their infection.

Ireland has suffered a rise in cases of CPE year on year. Numbers almost doubled in 2016 and there was a further surge last year.

There were 401 newly detected patients with CPE in the period from January to November 2017, compared with 282 in 2016. This marks a 42pc increase in the number of new patients detected.

The spread of this superbug in hospitals can lead to the closure of scarce beds, wards and units.

It comes at a time when it has been revealed the flu is to continue circulating for around four to five more weeks.

Prescribed

Meanwhile, the newest advice to doctors is they should tell patients that most sore throats do not need antibiotics.

The UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) and Public Health England (PHE) have finalised their recommendations for treating sore throats.

The evidence reviewed by Nice found most sore throats are triggered by a viral infection. Most people will get better without antibiotics, usually experiencing symptoms for up to a week.

However, research suggests antibiotics are prescribed in 60pc of cases.

Nice says healthcare professionals should help people to manage their symptoms with pain relief, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.

Some adults may wish to try medicated lozenges containing either a local anaesthetic, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) or an antiseptic.

However, they should be told these may only help to reduce pain by a small amount, according to the guidelines.

Irish Independent

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