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Strategy urgently needed for Superbug outbreak

20 February, 2004

National strategy urgently needed for Superbug outbreak

The outbreak of a superbug that has affected 120 people in Dunedin is extremely serious and is a warning that antibiotic resistant bacteria are spreading rapidly in New Zealand, Green Health spokesperson Sue Kedgley said today.

"E coli is the most common cause of urinary tract infection and an E coli that is resistant to the antibiotic Gentomycin - as this one is - is extremely serious," said Ms Kedgley, following reports of an outbreak of multi-resistant E. coli sweeping through 10 rest homes.

"Gentomycin is the main drug used in hospitals for blood poisoning, and if a common bacteria such as E Coli is resistant to it, one has to wonder what doctors will use now to treat these common infections," she said.

Ms Kedgley said the outbreak had obviously been going on for some time without the community being aware of it. "Clearly officials are trying to downplay outbreaks of antibiotic resistant bacteria and to conceal them from the public.

"Interestingly, the Health Select Committee has been investigating the issue of antibiotic resistance, yet officials have failed to mention this or other serious outbreaks of antibiotic resistance that have been taking place in communities for some time."

Ms Kedgley noted that officials had conceded that similar outbreaks had been occurring in other regions, and she would press them to inform the public as to where these other outbreaks were.

"The public is entitled to know that there are serious outbreaks of antibiotic resistant superbugs in their communities. It is totally unacceptable for health officials to try to conceal them from the public or to downplay their significance.

"It is obvious that much stricter, national standards of infection control are needed in New Zealand. There is significant variation between District Health Boards as to standards of infection control. This is totally unacceptable.

"It's astonishing that there is no policy for the notification, detection and transmission of multiply antibiotic resistant organisms other than MRSA. A DHB may or may not choose to acknowledge the existence of a serious threat to patient outcome, depending on the attitudes of management and other hospital staff."

Ms Kedgley said all DHB's in New Zealand should be required to report in their annual reports each year on outbreaks of superbugs in their hospitals and communities.


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