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California Lawmaker Requesting Congressional Hearing On Superbug Outbreak

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A California lawmaker is requesting for a Congressional hearing about investigating medical scopes that are blamed for a superbug outbreak.

Representative Ted Lieu, who is a Democrat from California, stated in his letter that superbug carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae or CRE, which is resilient to drug, is posing a health as well as national security concern. He also wrote that societal and human costs of the superbug outbreak will rise if not addressed properly.

"A superbug infection can kill not only the patient who was exposed to a tainted duodenoscope but also family members, friends and hospital staff who interacted with the patient," says Lieu.

Seven patients admitted to the University of California Los Angeles' (UCLA) Ronald Reagan Medical Center were infected with CRE from a regular medical procedure. Two people who contracted the superbug died and a third patient is battling for his life.

Lieu suggests that even though agencies such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are trying to fight the superbug, current sterilization technique of the medical scope will continue aiding the outbreak of the superbug and result in people getting ill.

Experts suggest that the duodenoscopes, which are inserted in a patient down the throat for treating gallstones, ulcers and more spreads CRE. Around 500,000 Americans undergo procedures that involve inserting duodenoscopes down the throat, which means that people are at risk of contracting CRE. Experts suggest that the scope has a design flaw that does not allow proper sterilization of the device and germs can still be present in it after being cleaned.

The CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are said to be aware of the sterilization issue of the device in question as it had already caused the superbug infection elsewhere. Both the agencies are blamed for overlooking the superbug infection, which resulted in more people getting infected with CRE.

UCLA revealed that about 179 patients may have been exposed to the superbug between October 2014 and January 2015. All these patients have been offered a free home test kit, which will allow the hospital to find any infection.

UCLA also revealed that it has been following manufacturer's standards for sterilizing the medical scopes. Following the latest CRE outbreak, the medical center has also returned a couple of devices and is now following a more stringent method of sterilizing the scopes.

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