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2 Of 7 Patients Infected Die After Being Exposed To Superbug Bacteria At UCLA Medical Center

BRENTWOOD ( — At least two patients have died and five more were infected after being exposed to a drug-resistant superbug bacteria at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center.

Another 179 patients may have been exposed to the carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, bacteria, the hospital told CBS2/KCAL9's Erica Nochlin. Officials say they're in the process of notifying those people.

CRE germs are resistant to almost all antibiotics and are more deadly than the more widely-known superbug MRSA.

California health officials found the majority of health care facilities do not perform CRE screenings as a prevention tool, even though this superbug is considered an urgent, growing public health concern around the country.

While the superbug can be passed from person to person, experts say healthy people are at a very low risk of infection. It usually is a source of concern for people with other medical problems in hospitals or nursing homes.

The potential exposure at UCLA occurred "during complex endoscopic procedures that took place between October 2014 and January 2015." Officials say the scopes used in the procedures were sterilized in accordance with manufacturer standards but the CRE may have been transmitted during a procedure that uses this "specialized scope to diagnose and treat pancreaticobiliary diseases."

They say that may have been a contributing factor in the deaths of two patients.

Global-Endo Scope
(credit: Global-Endo)

The scopes have a long fiber-optic cable with a light and camera at the end so doctors can see inside the body. They're highly effective when used to treat certain cancers and gallstones, but the devices can accumulate bacteria that can be passed from patient to patient.

The two scopes infected have been removed and the hospital is performing a thorough decontamination process that goes "above and beyond the manufacturer and national standards."

The hospital says it is offering those potentially exposed a free home-testing kit that would be processed at UCLA. They started sending out notification letters on Tuesday.

Officials say the hospital notified the Los Angeles County Department of Health and the California Department of Public Health in late January, as soon as they realized the equipment had been contaminated.

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