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Health: Philadelphia Hospital Had Similar Superbug Outbreak Last Year As Los Angeles

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Eyewitness News uncovers details about a recent deadly superbug outbreak at a Philadelphia hospital -- an outbreak just like the one at a hospital in Los Angeles that's got so many people worried.

Health reporter Stephanie Stahl has what we know tonight in an important Health Watch investigation.

Documents obtained by CBS 3 reveal a superbug outbreak at an un-named Philadelphia hospital last year. Eight people were infected, two - with underlying conditions died.  It's the same deadly infection now being investigated at U.C.L.A in Los Angeles.

"These types of outbreaks are all over the country," according to Lawrence Muscarella, a Philadelphia based infectious disease consultant.  He says the problem is with a certain kind of endoscope called ERCP. It's it is used to diagnose and treat blockages of the pancreatic and bile ducts. "Never before has a re-usable instrument like this in a health care setting ever been linked across the country to so many outbreaks… so may injured patients and so many deaths," Muscarella said.

The instrument has a movable mechanism called a forceps elevator, that allows doctors to manipulate tiny instruments. The FDA has issued a warning about the elevator mechanism. Muscarella says, "The FDA is saying the forcep elevator can't be cleaned and yet we aren't necessarily removing it from the market and that's also potentially unprecedented."

In L.A. 179 patients have been notified they may have been exposed to the superbug known as CRE linked to the endoscope.  In Philadelphia, where there have been more confirmed cases - there is silence.

"I find it concerning," Muscarella says.  The Philadelphia Department of Health, which released only one document confirming the CRE infections is refusing to name the local hospital where it's presumed the instrument was repeatedly used.  Muscarella says, "No one is telling us anything we're not able to compare the quality and as a result hospitals can cut corners not necessarily consciously but they can cut corners because they know that they may not be held accountable."

CBS3 has repeatedly asked the Philadelphia Department of Health for more information. They haven't responded.

We want to make clear the endoscopes involved in this superbug outbreak are only used for certain procedures not things like colonoscopies.

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