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County gets the Zombie jitters

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Published on: Thursday, October 04, 2012

By Christa Puccio

ROCKVILLE - Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner and County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett want a “sit down” with the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The request for a meeting comes after disturbing news about a “superbug” outbreak in the Bethesda facility.

“In this particular situation they had actually advised the state of the situation and the state dropped the ball in notifying the county,” said Berliner.  “So we just need to sit down and have candid conversations that in no way intrude upon their serious responsibility.  Recognizing that this is a place of last resort, this is where the sickest of the sick go, the last gasp, the last hope, they do such an extraordinary job of providing that.  So we don’t want to get in there way, but we do want to understand what they think is an appropriate protocol for their host county to insure that our community is fully aware when it needs to be aware.”

The “superbug” claimed its seventh victim on Sept. 7, according to published reports. The victim who contracted Klebsiella pneumonia carbapenemase (KPC) was a seriously ill boy from Minnesota who succumbed to a bloodstream infection, according to published reports.  He had visited the NIH research hospital in August 2011.  The NIH declined interviews after the finding.

“In consideration of the privacy of the patients and their families, we are declining additional interviews,” said Maggie McGuire, media relations specialist at NIH Clinical Center.  “We are deeply saddened by the deaths at the NIH Clinical Center related to Klebsiella pneumonia carbapenemase (KPC). The health and welfare of patients is NIH’s top priority, and the NIH has-and will continue to-take every measure possible to protect patients at the Clinical Center and quell transmission.”

Berliner and Leggett wrote to Dr. Francis Collins, director of NIH, “We are eager to sit down with you to better understand risk, determine a shared strategy for risk mitigation, and develop a plan for community outreach and education and for evidence-based preventative approaches.” 

“NIH has been very open to sitting down with our county and working toward a memorandum of understanding, which would set worth when and under what circumstances NIH would share with the county things that are going on within their clinic,” said Berliner.  “I have been very heartened by the openness of NIH.  It really is handling this situation in what I think an exemplary manner.  It’s a huge part of our community, it’s a huge part in our economy, and it has responsibilities to our county which they fully understand.”

According to the NIH Clinical Center, the superbug does not pose a threat to the general public, but only infects critically ill or immune-compromised patients.   McGuire said the NIH Clinical Center is keeping the CDC, and county and state officials informed of KPC infections.

“KPC is among the most serious of the antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections and a persistent problem in health care facilities across the country,” said McGuire.  “The Clinical Center is taking strong action to keep KPC from spreading further, redoubling its efforts to ensure that all the infection control and isolation strategies recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are followed stringently, that testing for KPC in our patient population. . .”

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