Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys have become concerned at the growing threat of superbugs in U.S. Hospitals. Although many people have some limited familiarity with the concept of “superbugs,” most Americans do not realize just how serious the problem has become.
In years past, the term “superbug” was applied almost exclusively to MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. MRSA began as an infection that was almost exclusively acquired by hospital patients. It has since spread outside hospital walls. Now, Americans are becoming infected with MRSA in gyms and other public places, in so-called “community acquired” infections. This development has caused no small amount of alarm and consternation in both medical circles and the general public.
But while MRSA is dangerous and even life-threatening, it is not untreatable, especially if caught in a timely fashion. MRSA is simply another iteration of the antibiotic-resistant bacterium that have been present and emerging for decades. Each time, the threat was mild because other antibiotics were available, and new antibiotics were periodically developed and approved. Although MRSA is resistant to a greater number of antibiotics than prior resistant strains, there are still antibiotics available for treatment.
This is of scant comfort to many of the clients of our medical malpractice lawyers. That is because recently an entirely new type of superbug has sprouted up in U.S. hospitals. These new superbugs are actually resistant to every FDA-approved antibiotic. Because these new infections are not responding to antibiotics at all, those who are infected have no available treatments if their bodies are unable to fight off the infection on their own. Because these infections prey on those who are already hospitalized, often in intensive care, this is often the case.
In fact, the five superbugs in this class that have been identified so far now make up a shocking 60% of all infections acquired by patients in U.S. intensive care units. And the number of such infections is steadily rising. In the past decade, one of these bugs, called Klebsiella, has gone from a slight presence in a single state to a nationwide problem.
In fact, the experts now believe that tens of thousands of Americans are dying each year from these new superbugs. But our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers believe that this reported estimate is actually low, because at this point only about half of the states require in-state hospitals to report infection rates. We urge the legislators and regulators of the remaining states to amend this situation, so that the public will at least know the magnitude of the threat we face.
The bacteria which cause these infections can live outside the body for years at a time, clinging to hospital surfaces when personnel fail to adequately sterilize. They then enter patients’ bodies through wounds or small abrasions, as well as hospital catheters and ventilation systems.
The Center for Disease Control, which tracks these infections, believes that these infections are reaching patients primarily on the hands of healthcare workers in U.S. hospitals. Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys have written before about the horrifying consequences of the failure of hospital staff to wash their hands thoroughly and regularly. In fact, a recent study revealed that more than half of U.S. hospitals were failing to consistently practice basic “infection control,” meaning proper hand washing, and sterilizing hospital tools and surfaces. There is simply no excuse for these failures – this is negligence at its worst, with hospitals and staff endangering the most vulnerable of their charges through wanton disregard for the most basic of safety precautions.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.