5,000 patients exposed to superbug will be told in coming weeks

People may have come into contact with antibiotic resistant CPE while in hospital

Thousands of people who may been exposedto a “superbug” while in hospital are to be sent letters in the coming weeks informing them of this, a HSE spokeswoman has confirmed.

Hospital groups are going to begin contacting some 5,000 people to tell them following the decision of an expert group that such communication should be carried out.

The people concerned may have come into contact with CPE, an antibiotic resistant organism that can live harmlessly in the gut but is very dangerous if it gets into the bloodstream.

Patients identified while in hospital as having possibly come into contact with the bug are told straight away. However patients who have left hospital but are later identified as having possibly been in contact with the bug are to be notified by letter.

Experts believe that about one in 20 of the people identified as having been in contact with the bug will become carriers, and that there is a one in 400 chance of a carrier going on to develop a serious infection. There are antibiotics that can used to treat such infections.

The HSE believes that the number of people who carry CPE in Ireland is still fairly small (probably about 2000). Last year 433 new people were found to be carrying CPE in Ireland.

People who may have been in contact with CPE are not being recommended to have tests conducted but are being advised to take extra precautions in terms of hygiene.