January 17, 2008

University of Maryland Acinetobacter baumannii Outbreak

Still promoting the myth that only sick people get this.

Deadly Infection in Baltimore Hospital

Three patients from a Baltimore hospital are dead – after becoming infected with deadly, drug-resistant bacteria.

On January 4th, officials at the University of Maryland Medical Center discovered that the three patients had been infected with “Acinetobacter baumannii.” It is not clear whether the patients actually died from that infection; hospital officials say all three patients were already very ill, and had been hospitalized for several weeks.

Still, the hospital is taking serious precautions. “Unfortunately, this organism -- and other organisms -- appear in many hospitals in Baltimore and beyond on an ongoing basis. That is why we have a proactive and comprehensive infection control and surveillance system in place,” said Ellen Beth Levitt, a spokeswoman for the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Four other patients identified as having the organism are still being cared for in the unit and are in stable condition, Levitt said. They have been separated from other patients and they are being treated by a team with strict contact precautions in force, including the use of gloves and gowns, frequent hand washing and frequent disinfection of medical equipment and facilities. No new patients are being admitted to that unit for the time being, she said.

Acinetobacter baumannii is best-known for affecting military personnel who have been serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. The bacteria can live on surfaces like countertops, medical equipment and even cell phones for up to 12 days. Most strains are difficult to treat, because they are not affected by common antibiotics. However, the infection poses little risk to healthy people. It can cause a variety of illnesses, ranging from pneumonia to serious blood or wound infections. Acinetobacter may also colonize or grow in a patient without causing infection or symptoms.

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