The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 9, 2013

Health care providers keep watch for resistant germs

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement about the so-called “nightmare bacteria,” they did with statements such as this:

“It’s not often that our scientists come to me and say we have a very serious problem and we need to sound an alarm,” the CDC director told reporters at a news conference last week. “But that’s exactly what we’re doing today.”

Since then, talk of this new infection (called carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae or CRE) that is resistant to nearly every form of antibiotic has been the talk of the nation.

Not since the MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) infection scare hit several years ago has so much talk circulated about an infection that could kill us all.

But just how dangerous is this new infection and how worried should you be?

Despite what the head of the CDC says, local sources say it’s not quite time to panic.

“We want to make sure hospitals are ready for it,” said Brad Krier, a Minnesota Department of Health epidemiologist who works out of Mankato.

They have a Department of Health “tool kit” that offers a set of protocols to hospitals when it comes to dealing with infections. If medical professionals follow those protocols, he said, there should be little to worry about.

“If they’re successful, it shouldn’t get out into the community,” Krier said. “It’s similar to MRSA. That used to be a hospital-acquired infection, but it got out into the community.”

For the record, there haven’t been many CRE cases in Minnesota. But there is no doubt the number of CRE cases is growing. In Minnesota in 2011 there were 44 cases. In 2012, that number jumped to 90.

The majority of those were in the Twin Cities area, where Hennepin and Ramsey counties are under active surveillance by the state’s Department of Health for infectious diseases. The rest of the state’s counties report their cases to the state when they occur, and Kriel said he didn’t know whether there have been any CRE cases in southern Minnesota.

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