Hospitals, nursing homes and other health care settings are on high alert from government health officials following an influx of a rare and potential deadly superbug. According to NBC News reporting, reports of unusual forms of CRE (Carbapenem-resistant enterobacteriaceae) have nearly doubled in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this month. Of 37 cases of rare forms of CRE, including the alarming NDM  (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase), 15 have been reported since last July.

CREs are part of a family of drug-resistant germs that have shown up in growing numbers of U.S. health care settings. They’re named for their ability to elude carbapenem antibiotics and they usually strike people who are already ill, those that require devices such as ventilators or catheters, or people who have been taking antibiotics for a long time.

That said, CREs can infect any patient and can take a long time to cure. According to researchers in Israel, people who carry CRE can wait more than a year before they test negative for the bacteria. These findings are cause for concern. The reality is, CREs are difficult to control, which raises the risk of wider spread.

In an effort to reduce the spread, health officials are calling for stricter isolation and hygiene precautions, increased screening of patients potentially colonized with CRE and better communication within and between hospitals and other health care settings where the bugs can become intractable. CRE infections have a mortality rate of up to 40 percent, much higher than other health care infections, such as those caused by MRSA or C. diff.

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