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Outbreak Of Resistant E Coli In Hawkes Bay

12 May 2002

Outbreak Of Multiply Resistant E Coli In Hawkes Bay

The Government seems reluctant to acknowledge an outbreak in a Hawkes Bay hospital of multiply resistant E coli, which is highly resistant to most antibiotics, Green Health spokesperson Sue Kedgley said today.

"The Government has refused to give me any information on the outbreak, or even acknowledge its existence, in answer to Parliamentary Questions. However I have obtained the information about the outbreak from the Government's own Environmental Science and Research institute," she said.

ESR figures, released in their magazine, confirm that last year 40 people in the Hawkes Bay developed an infection from a strain of multiply resistant E coli while in hospital.

"I am very concerned that this particular strain of E coli has become multiply resistant as it is the cause of relatively common conditions such as urinary tract infections and blood poisoning. Once we run out of antibiotics to treat these sort of conditions, we will face a major public health crisis."

Ms Kedgley said the fact that the outbreak in a Hawkes Bay hospital may already have spread into the community was a cause for concern, as the organism can clearly spread quite rapidly.

Ms Kedgley said the outbreak was a harbinger of things to come. "If it is happening in the Hawkes Bay, it could happen anywhere else in New Zealand.

"The Government must approach the issue of the development of antibiotic resistant organisms in New Zealand with openness and transparency, and not attempt to play down the issue. We need a heightened awareness of the issue and the importance of using antibiotics wisely."

Ms Kedgley said New Zealanders needed to know what precautions were being taken when patients were discharged from hospital and whether the organism has turned up in any other New Zealand hospitals or nursing homes.

"We need to know whether it has spread from the hospital to the community outside, how long people have been carrying it and whether any people have become seriously ill as a result of this resistant organism.

"Multiply resistant organisms should be treated as notifiable diseases, so that the Government can find out the extent of the problem of antibiotic resistant organisms in New Zealand, and develop a national strategy to counter its spread."

Ends

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