Superbug surfaces in Valley hospitals but isn't considered risky to public

Feb. 21, 2006 12:00 AM

Arizona Department of Health Services officials are investigating a drug-resistant bacteria that has been making an appearance in Valley hospitals over the past several months.

Acinetobacter is typically spread by human contact and often affects those in intensive care units or with weak immune systems, said David Engelthaler, health services epidemiologist. The bacteria can cause infections and respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia. Health officials have consulted with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are testing samples to see if the strains could mean an outbreak for the Valley, Engelthaler said.

Those tests could be complete by the end of April.

Engelthaler said the bacterium is not "something we're concerned about as a public health risk." However, he said the health department is instructing hospitals to increase hygienic practices, such as hand washing, to reduce the risk of transmission. - Rachel Stults

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