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File photo of a person cleaning their hands. Drug-resistant infections like CPE are a rising concern in hospitals globally, with thousands in Ireland thought to be affected.Pic: Tim Ireland/PA Wire
File photo of a person cleaning their hands. Drug-resistant infections like CPE are a rising concern in hospitals globally, with thousands in Ireland thought to be affected.Pic: Tim Ireland/PA Wire
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383 patients told they may have contracted superbug while in hospital

ALMOST 400 patients who attended hospitals in the Southwest region have been informed by the HSE that they may have come into contact with a superbug, the Evening Echo can reveal.

Carbapenemase Producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) is the newest in a long line of ‘superbugs’ — bacteria that are hard to kill with antibiotics.

CPE was found to be a factor in seven deaths in University Hospital Limerick, while health officials have warned that there may be about 2,000 people carrying the superbug in Ireland. 

Patients usually come into contact with it while in hospital and are usually informed if they have come into contact with someone with the bug while in hospital.

Cork hospitals have been working with the HSE to identify patients who may have come into contact with the superbug and letters have been sent out to patients since September to inform them of a possibility that they contracted the bug.

Across the South/South West Hospital Group, which includes Cork hospitals, 383 patients were identified for letters to be issued as per the national recommendations.

According to figures obtained by the Evening Echo, 27 patients were diagnosed as having CPE since the beginning of 2018.

A spokesperson for South/South West Hospital Group said: “South/South West Hospital Group can confirm that 27 patients across the Group were confirmed as having CPE.

“For the first half of 2018, 6,076 swabs were taken.”

According to figures from the HSE, there were seven new cases of CPE identified in the SSWHG in April of this year alone, following 1,114 rectal swabs or faeces tests, compared to 381 tests in October last year.

There were also 22 inpatients with CPE in hospitals across the South/Southwest group in April, with two of those deemed to be in inappropriate accommodation with an en-suite bathroom.

Minister for Health Simon Harris highlighted the rapid and worrying increase in the incidence of CPE in Ireland, with a significant growth in numbers of cases.

Of all the superbugs, CPE is the most difficult to kill with antibiotics.