Eleven Patients at Huntington Memorial Hospital May Have Died from a "Superbug" Outbreak

Published : Thursday, June 2, 2016 | 5:49 AM

[Updated June 2, 2016 | 2:01 p.m. and 10:53 a.m.]  Up to 11 patients treated at Huntington Memorial Hospital may have died from a “superbug” infection possibly caused by inadequate sterilization of a medical scope used by the hospital to treat them.

A report by the Pasadena Public Health Department, dated May 19, 2016, was released to the media by the Huntington Hospital in an email on Wednesday.

Health Department officials said that 16 patients were infected by bacteria thought to be associated with the medical duodenoscopes used in their treatment over a time period from January, 2013 to August of 2015. Of the 16 infected, 11 died.

Only one of the deaths shows a death certificate that states the cause as bacterial infection. It is unknown if any of the remaining 10 who died fell victim to same infection.

In the report, Health Department officials said they were notified of the superbug outbreak by Los Angeles County after the hospital failed to follow a California regulation which mandates that the Department be immediately informed of the “occurrence of any unusual disease.”

The Pasadena Health Department officials pointed to “signs of inadequate maintenance and cleaning” of the medical equipment used to treat the patients who died, noting that in spite of the need for complete sterilization of the devices, hospital employees used compressed air in spray cans from Office Depot to maintain them.

The report also said the hospital did not disinfect the scopes in accordance with manufacturer’s guidelines, and the hospital’s maintenance procedures were not “consistent” with Centers for Disease Control protocols.

Pasadena Public Health Department officials said that there have been no further reports of patients infected with the superbug linked to the scopes after their investigation began last August.

The patients who died had all tested positive for a multi-drug resistant bacteria infection called Pseudomonas aeruginosa following endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography procedures at Huntington Hospital. The procedures used specialized medical instrument called duodenoscopes.

The Huntington used TJF-160F duodenoscopes manufactured by Olympus Coporation. The scope is reuseable, but deadly bacteria can become trapped inside the devices and infect other patients treated later with the same scope.

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