An intensive care unit at a Puerto Rico hospital was recently closed following an outbreak of a resistant bacteria strain, health officials revealed on Tuesday.
At least 10 patients at the University of Puerto Rico Hospital in the northern city of Carolina who have since died were carrying the bacteria Acinetobacter baumannii, said Dr. Haydee Garcia, epidemiology director of Puerto Rico’s health department. Eight of the patients did not die from the bacterial infection, but it’s unclear whether the bacteria caused the deaths of the other two, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The deaths, which occurred between May and July, prompted Dr. Garcia to ask the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate. “It’s not normal for humans to carry that bacteria,” Garcia said. She pointed to poor hygiene as the cause, saying medical personnel were not always following basic procedures such as frequently washing their hands, the AP reports.
Acinetobacter causes diseases, ranging from pneumonia to serious blood or wound infections, and the symptoms vary depending on the disease, the CDC says. Acinetobacter poses very little risk to healthy people — but people with weakened immune systems, chronic lung disease, or diabetes may be more susceptible to infections. Hospitalized patients, patients on ventilators, or those who have open wounds or invasive devices like urinary catheters are also at greater risk for Acinetobacter infection. Acinetobacter can be spread to susceptible persons by person-to-person contact or contact with contaminated surfaces.
Garcia said the closed intensive care unit is being remodeled and has since tested negative for the bacteria, according to the AP.