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Superbug outbreak at RCH over

An outbreak of a superbug in a Royal Columbian Hospital ward as been declared over.

Fraser Health announced five weeks after Carbapenemase-Producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) had been found in five patients that no further transmission is occurring.

The patients were isolated Feb. 3 from the rest of the ward, which houses long-term patients with complex medical conditions. They were taken care of by separate medical and cleaning staff who wore protective clothing and used equipment dedicated to the isolated patients.

CPE is resistant to many of medicine's best antibiotics. Officials said at the time of the isolation it would be several weeks before they could be sure it had been eradicated.

"At a minimum we were looking at four to six weeks," said Fraser Health spokeswoman Jasleen Juma. "The fifth week was really the confirmation.

"We knew CPE was a slow moving bacteria, that it was going to take several weeks before we knew would be effective. It was not something you track day-by-day, you check week-by-week."

She added some of the patients have been released but others remained because they still needed care for what sent them to hospital in the first place.

Fraser Health regularly checks for CPE but this was the first time it had been found on the unit.

According to Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin, Fraser Health's infection protection and control medical director, CPE often settles into the colon. Many don't notice it because their immune system deals with it, but they can still be carriers. Bodkin said most of those who come down with CPE ingest it, and can spread when carriers don't wash their hands.

CPE is from a family of bacteria which is resistant to carbaphenems which are some of the most powerful series of antibiotics available, said Brodkin. Treatment can vary depending on where the bacteria attacks. If it's in the bladder it can cause a urinary infection, it makes it way into the lungs symptoms of pneumonia can emerge or it can cause a blood infection.

Fraser Health has begun testing for CPE when admitting patients who have received medical treatment outside of Canada in the previous six months.

Juma said she wasn't sure if Fraser Health would be able to calculate how much the extra measures to eradicate CPE cost the health authority.

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