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3 People In San Diego Fighting Superbug Infections After Surgeries In Tijuana

Multidrug-resistant bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa is shown in this rendering.

Credit: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Above: Multidrug-resistant bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa is shown in this rendering.

Two people in San Diego County remain hospitalized and one person is under care at a nursing facility after contracting a potentially deadly superbug infection at a Tijuana hospital.

“Right now these patients are treatable, but we want to make sure no one else gets that infection,” said Eric McDonald, M.D., medical director of epidemiology for the county of San Diego. “All of the patients who were hospitalized in San Diego had their infections recognized early and were treated with the appropriate infection precautions.”

McDonald said there is no evidence of secondary infections related to the hospitalized cases. Still, the California Health Alert Network of San Diego County and the Centers for Disease Control have both issued alerts for a second time this year, warning doctors to be vigilant, and for the public to stay away from Tijuana’s Grand View Hospital, the epicenter of the infections, according to U.S. health officials.

An alert first went out in January when a dozen U.S. patients who had undergone elective weight loss surgeries in Tijuana had contracted a multidrug-resistant infection. Since then, the number of cases among U.S. citizens has more than doubled.

The bacteria, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, can spread through poorly cleaned medical equipment, and from healthcare workers to patients. It’s one of the top threats among microbes, according to the CDC.

“There are combinations of drugs that can be used to treat this infection, but it is very difficult,” McDonald said. “There are some last line antibiotics that can be used with other drugs to fight this infection.”

Dr. McDonald said the outbreak is not a threat to the general public, but people traveling outside the country for medical procedures need to take precautions.

“It’s very important that they do good research on where they’re going to go for the treatment they’re going to get,” he said.

According to the CDC, Pseudomonas aeruginosa kills more than 400 people per year in the United States. The World Health Organization recently reported superbugs could lead to 10 million deaths worldwide per year by 2050, fueled by an overuse of antibiotics, which are not just used in medicines, but also in food production.

“Right now these patients are treatable, but we want to make sure no one else gets that infection,” said Eric McDonald, M.D., medical director of epidemiology for the county of San Diego.

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