"Nightmare Bacteria" Threat in Washoe County

By  | 

Reno, NV - There's growing concern over that superbug the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling a "nightmare bacteria." It is resistant to antibiotics and it's spreading in 42 states, including ours. In Washoe County, health experts say the problem is also on the rise.

The intestinal bacteria is called CRE, which stands for Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae.

"They're simply resistant to our drugs," says Dr. Kevin Murphy, of Sierra Infectious Diseases. The local doctor says the highly contagious super bug poses a huge threat at intensive care units.

"It's true that there's a far greater problem on the East Coast, temporarily than it is here," he says. "But we're still seeing 50 to 80 cases a year in Washoe County and that's far too many."

The CDC says, so far, the bacteria has only been found in hospitals and nursing homes. When patients get it, it can cause pneumonia, blood stream infections, and urinary tract infections. And it can kill nearly half of the patients that get seriously infected.

For Dr. Murphy, it's a frustrating problem.

"Physcians are faced with patients whose infections they literally cannot treat with antibiotics. And some of those patients we have to simply watch die," he says.

Dr. Murphy points to a report by the Infectious Diseases Society of America that was published in 2004, which urged Congress to take immediate action to fight off super bugs like this one.

"So this is not news. This is 9 years late!" he says. "And what has happened is we're seeing the fruition of the predictions that the infectious disease society made at that time. It's just getting worse."

Now as the CDC warns hospitals across the country, the superbug is getting more and more attention, including here in our area.

"Lately, I've read about it on the Internet. I've seen a couple articles on it and seen it on TV on the news, too," says Mike Gebhardt, a Truckee resident.

"It's scary," says Amanda Brown, a Reno resident.

Doctors say since the bacteria is spread from patient-to-patient on the hands of health care workers, one thing patients can do is make sure the hospital workers they come in contact with was their hands.

Dr. Murphy says what really needs to happen is drug companies have to put more effort into creating new drugs for antibiotic-resistant super bugs. He suggests Congress come up with incentives for pharmaceutical companies to do that.