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2 Killed, 179 Possibly Exposed To Scary 'Superbug' At UCLA Medical Center

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Over 180 patients at the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center may have been exposed to a drug-resistant 'superbug,' with the bacterium said to be "a contributing factor" in two deaths.Five patients are confirmed to be infected with carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, which is a type of bacteria that is highly resistant to treatments. As terrifying as that sounds, the CDC reassures that, "Healthy people usually do not get CRE infections—they usually happen to patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings." If you are infected with CRE, the mortality rate may be as high as 50 percent. The UCLA patients that may have been exposed to CRE all had an ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) performed on them between October of last year and up through late January, according to the L.A. Times.

ERCPs involve the use of a scope inserted down the throat of a person to treat conditions of the digestive system, including cancers and gallstones. The source of the outbreak might stem from the cleaning of the scopes, which, even when adhering to manufacturer's guidelines, may not be sufficient in disinfecting the devices. On Thursday, the FDA issued a warning regarding endoscopes, saying, "Meticulously cleaning duodenoscopes prior to high-level disinfection should reduce the risk of transmitting infection, but may not entirely eliminate it." Around half a million patients nationwide have an ERCP performed on them every year.

While Los Angeles county health officials are investigating the outbreak, with help from the California Department of Public Health and CDC, UCLA is notifying 179 patients who might have been exposed to CRE and offering free tests to check if they are infected.