Superbug outbreak at UHL sparks alert

UHL - Limerick Post Newspaper
University Hospital Limerick

An outbreak of a deadly bacteria at University Hospital Limerick has prompted strict visitor restrictions.

And the HSE nationally has said it will be contacting around 5,000 patients throughout the country to let them know they may have been exposed to the bug.


Carbapenemase Producing Enterobacteriaceae (CPE) is an antibiotic-resistant bacteria which is harmless in the gut, but can be fatal in about half of cases when it gets into the bloodstream.

The majority of patients who came into contact with people who had CPE during their hospital stay will have nothing to worry about but around one in ten will have picked up the bug.

Strict visitor restrictions have been in place at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) since the beginning of August when the outbreak was identified and a regime to try to stop the spread of the bug has been mobilised.

A spokesman confirmed that there have been 21 new positive cases detected at UHL since June.

“There are currently three CPE-positive inpatients at UHL and all necessary infection prevention and control measures are in place to manage this current outbreak. All cases detected since June relate to patients colonised with and not infected with CPE. 

“All infection control measures are in place and every effort is being made to manage the situation with CPE-positive patients and CPE contacts being isolated and cohorted as appropriate,” a hospital statement said.  

A number of measures have been taken to deal with the current outbreak. These include twice-weekly incident meetings convened for all affected areas, isolation of all positive patients with strict high-level contact precautions, all CPE contacts are screened for a period of 28 days with four negative swabs.  These patients are isolated/cohorted with contact precautions. There is also extensive environmental cleaning and hydrogen peroxide decontamination underway 

“CPE is recognised as being endemic in the MidWest Region and UL Hospitals Group has developed comprehensive control measures to deal with Multi-Drug Resistant Organisms,” the spokesman added.  

UL Hospitals Group is proactive in screening patients for CPE in line with national and international best practice and guidance. This helps to identify at-risk colonised patients asymptomatically carrying CPE, allowing for the appropriate control measures to be put in place.

“Screening protocols that have been in place at UHL for a number of years have been the template for the development of the national screening policy for the National Public Health Emergency Team on CPE.

“There has been strengthened governance in relation to CPE across the UL Hospital Group including the establishment of a CPE Strategic Committee. Information on CPE is shared with senior management and clinicians and escalated nationally through the appropriate channels”.

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