A DEADLY superbug virtually resistant to most drugs has arrived in Irish hospitals.
The HSE issued an alert after the lethal new strain affected seven patients in one hospital.
The superbug KPC, which "chops up most anti-biotics" making them useless, is potentially as deadly as C Diff.
Dr Fidelma Fitzpatrick, HSE expert on infections, today warned that all hospitals must be "on the ball".
"The difficulty is if you do get the infection I can only have two or three antibiotics to choose from," she said.
The HSE are closely monitoring all hospitals and healthcare facilities throughout the country for any signs of a further outbreak.
This follows confirmation that the superbug affected seven people in the Mid-West Regional Hospital.
Klebsiella pneumonia carbapanemase (KPC) is believed to have contributed to the deaths of more than 20 people in Brazil.
The outbreak was confirmed in the Mid-West Regional Hospital in Limerick where seven people have been affected, including five in-patients.
Experts say it is highly resistant to a range of drugs, such as penicillin and carbapenem antibiotics.
However, the HSE is confident that measures already in place to prevent the spread of MRSA and C Diff in hospitals will help halt the spread of KPC.
In a statement issued earlier this week, the HSE said five inpatients at the Limerick hospital currently had the superbug.
This morning, they confirmed to the Herald that two were infected and three colonised (this is where the bug is living on the patient but without effects). No other patients have been affected by the bug since news of the outbreak earlier this week.
A second spokesperson for the HSE said that preventative measures designed to halt the spread of MRSA and C Diff in Irish hospitals meant no additional measures for KPC needed to be put in place.
“Hand hygiene and general hygiene policies are already in Irish hospitals and have been shown to stop the spread of superbugs.
“Of course we will be closely monitoring the situation but no other hospital has recorded an outbreak of KPC,” he said.
Meanwhile, strict restrictions have been placed on visitors at the Mid-West Regional Hospital. A deep-cleaning operation has been completed at all affected wards.
The HSE spokesman for the region said steps had been taken to improve hand hygiene standards among hospital staff but warned that a zero-tolerance approach was being enforced in respect of anyone who failed to comply with these standards.
“This will include disciplinary action and or notification to relevant professional registration bodies if warranted in any particular case,” said the spokesman.
Every year, around three million people in the EU catch a healthcare-associated infection, resulting in around 50,000 deaths.
One in 10 patients entering a European hospital can expect to catch an infection caused by drug-resistant microbes.