Nursing homes in Florida are preparing themselves for drug-resistant bacteria, which kill roughly half of the individuals that it infects. Unfortunately, seniors in long-term, acute care facilities are those who are hit hardest.
The killer bacteria, known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, has previously hit Florida seven different times since 2008, affecting a total of 285 patients.
Two outbreaks in Broward County infected 40 patients and resulted in 17 associated deaths, state health officials said.
Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Sun Sentinel that CRE cases are clustered in Florida hospitals and care facilities, but that he urges healthcare leaders to act rapidly in order to prevent the superbug from spreading to the general population.
According to the Sun Sentinel, latest reports revealed that cases of such bacteria have risen five-fold in a span of 10 years, spread from only one state to 42, and is believed to have triggered a total of 17 deaths in South Florida.
CDC officials state that the bacteria also have built up defenses against nearly all antibiotics, thus making it immensely perilous when it enters the bloodstream. The bacteria generally are passed on through person-to-person contact or contaminated medical equipment such as IV lines.
Florida—the state with the highest percentage of elders in the country—is ground zero for the CRE superbug, which can withstand even the strongest antibiotics. Nursing homes are developing a surveillance system for reporting individual cases in order to better track them.
Both Broward outbreaks in 2008 and in 2010-11 occurred in long-term acute care hospitals. The residents there were too sick to be discharged to rehab centers. Many were on ventilators or catheters.
There are four of these hospitals that are licensed in the counties of Broward and Palm Beach. Select Medical of Pennsylvania owns one in Lake Worth, and three belong to Louisville-based Kindred Healthcare.
According to the CDC, CRE has been around for years and accounted for only about 4 percent of all infections in 2012.