Los Angeles County plans to require hospitals to begin reporting when patients are infected with a certain highly lethal superbug, a Los Angeles County health official said in remarks reported today.
Unlike two dozen other states, California has not required hospitals to report when patients are sickened with the lethal bacteria, which federal officials warn is one of the nation’s most urgent health threats. The hospitals will be advised of the new reporting requirement in the coming months, Dawn Terashita, deputy director of the county’s acute communicable disease control program, told the Los Angeles Times.
The change comes after The Times reported Sunday about how Manhattan Beach resident Sharley McMullen was sickened with CRE, or carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, after a May 2014 surgery at Torrance Memorial Medical Center.
McMullen’s daughter said she called the county’s public health department to report her mother’s infection but was told it wasn’t a reportable disease, The Times reported. McMullen died from the CRE infection after spending five weeks in the hospital, mostly in the ICU.
The county stopped requiring hospitals to report CRE infections in 2012 due to resource limitations, according to officials, although some hospitals continued to voluntarily submit bacterial samples from patients stricken with the superbug, according to The Times.
Terashita said the county does not plan to release the names of the hospitals reporting the CRE infections except in rare cases. She said health officials will use the data to “look for clusters of infections and prevent outbreaks.”
Nursing homes and clinics won’t be required to report when their patients are infected with CRE, she said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 75,000 Americans with hospital-acquired infections die during their hospitalizations each year. Some experts have challenged that number, saying it underestimates the number of deaths.
Since late 2014, CRE has caused three outbreaks at Los Angeles County hospitals.