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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Drug-resistant virus cleared from hospital

By Deborah Rafferty

University Hospital is now safe from a powerful virus that kept hospital employees on their toes for the past few months.

Last July, a patient was transferred from an out-of-state facility to the U Hospital with a potentially lethal infection that turned out to be a multidrug-resistant organism. The infection led to a contained outbreak in other patients in the intensive care unit. After identifying the MDRO, the doctors tested cultures during the course of the next few months.

As of December, the U Hospital seems to be clear of the infection that was immune to many types of drug treatments, said Chris Nelson, spokesman for U Health Sciences. But this wasn’t a rare scenario.

In hospitals, MDROs are not uncommon, and they occur in several health care settings. Doctors are constantly looking for them, Nelson said. There are cases throughout the year of MDROs being brought into the U Hospital, he said. Most often, they tend to see them coming from community nursing centers, he said.

“The bugs don’t originate in the hospitals,” Nelson said. “They get brought to the hospitals. Once they are there, you just have to go in and do everything you can to get rid of it.”

MDROs also exist in the community naturally8212;some living in dirt8212;and most people are probably carrying one, he said. Since most people are healthy and have strong immune systems, they are unaffected by the organisms. However, in a hospital setting where people’s immune systems are already weakened, it will show up as an infection, he said.

In this particular case, doctors had been treating the patient for an infection, but the drugs were not working. They then began testing the patient’s bodily fluids and found an MDRO. Because doctors then knew what they were looking for, they figured out which patients in the ICU had the MDRO, Nelson said.

“Just because a patient has it does not mean they have an infection,” Nelson said. “The reason MDROs are hard to kill (is because) they are resistant to most antibiotic (treatments). The ones that we use to treat are really tough on the body.”

Because the drugs needed to fight the infection are so strong, many times doctors will determine whether treatment is needed for the infection, Nelson said. The antibiotic needed could cause a person more problems than the infection would, he said. Many times, since these patients already have a weakened immune system, acquiring this bug could eventually contribute to their death, he said.

Since the MDRO had spread to other patients in the ICU, the U Hospital stressed the importance of staff washing their hands, which is the most effective way to keep any disease from spreading, he said. They also stress hand washing with the patient’s family, he said. In this case, they also washed everything in the room with powerful disinfectants, Nelson said.

“With some of these bugs in particular, what we do is take the patient out (of the room), and we wipe down everything8212;the ceiling, the walls, the window, the floor,” Nelson said. “It’s not your typical cleaning of your house. That’s the way that you get rid of these things.”

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