Doctor addresses Hartford Hospital E. coli infection concerns

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Hartford Healthcare is no longer using the particular scope in question. It was used for very sick patients people with infections or cancer. The scope is threaded through the mouth to examine the colon. This is not a routine endoscopy.

Doctors at Hartford Hospital used the same duodenoscope that UCLA Medical Center has linked to two patients dying from a superbug. The contamination at Hartford Hospital, though, was to a form of E. coli, despite a proactive process of limiting hospital acquired illnesses.

Dr. Louise Dembry, Professor of Infectious Diseases and of Epidemiology at Yale School of Medicine, says the scope is a complex tool and challenging to clean.

“They have to be well-cleaned before we do the high-level disinfection process, so this is probably around not so much their process as in the design of the scope and in the difficulty of cleaning it,” said Dr. Dembry.

What led Hartford Hospital to contact 281 patients at risk for an E. coli infection was a routine check, commonly referred to as active surveillance.

“Active surveillance just means we’re just always actively looking for things like clusters and infections,” said Dr. Dembry. “It is part of an infection prevention program, particularly around antibiotic resistance organisms.”

This particular one is treatable with antibiotics.

“When transmission has occurred it usually means, at that point, a person has been exposed to the organism and has acquired it, they are just carrying it,” said Dr. Dembry. “It doesn’t mean they are infected. Infection is certainly what we are most concerned about but I don’t think most people have to be concerned, and just having been exposed to the organism doesn’t necessarily mean you would have acquired it.”

Dr. Dembry advises that concerned patients talk to their physician.

But keep in mind, there are still good reasons to get these procedures done, and despite clusters of infection reported it is still pretty uncommon.

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