On March 4th, the Courant reported that Hartford Hospital contacted 281 patients exposed to a drug-resistant strain of E. Coli. While not the superbug from UCLA Medical Center and Cedars-Sinai outbreaks in California, the incident stems from the same scope.
According to multiple reports, this scope is nearly impossible to fully disinfect, and received an FDA warning on February 19th. At Hartford Hospital, the scope was removed as of December 2014 and its replacement does not have such a flaw. In 2014, patients infected with this strain arrived at the hospital, and the spread had been traced back to this scope.
For the 281 patients, the device had been used in endoscopic procedures concerning infection or cancer. Doctors had threaded it through the mouth to examine the colon, and these procedures had been conducted over the past few months.
Although no cases have been reported from this group yet, those exposed are at risk for infection. The hospital, in a statement, said this E. Coli strain can be treated with certain antibiotics. The hospital’s Dr. Louise Dembry advised patients to contact their physicians.
However, this incident is not unique. ProPublica previously reported findings from The Institute of Medicine that 98,000 died as a result of hospital mistakes in 1999 alone.
These figures were followed by data from the Office of Inspector General for Health and Human Services, which found that 180,000 deaths of Medicare patients in 2010 could be attributed to hospital negligence. In 2013, the Journal of Patient Safety found that hospital negligence may be associated with anywhere from 210,000 to 440,000 patient fatalities per year, making it the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
Not long before Hartford Hospital held its news conference, patients at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles were exposed to superbug CRE. The bacteria, transmitted by the same scope used at Hartford Hospital, infected four people at Cedars-Sinai and killed two more at UCLA.