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'Super germs' a growing problem in America

‘Super germs’ a growing concern in America (Sinclair Broadcast Group)
‘Super germs’ a growing concern in America (Sinclair Broadcast Group)
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SAN ANTONIO - There's growing concern sweeping the country about what's being called "super germs."

They are bacterial infections that have become resistant to most available treatment options.

"Unfortunately, we are starting to see more cases of these drug resistant bacteria or super bugs in the United States," said Dr. Jason Bowling, an infectious diseases doctor at UT Health Science Center.

We're a country under siege, not by an act of terror, but in places where Americans go to improve their health lives a silent killer.

"That would scare me," said mom Jessica Smith. "That would scare me, and I'd be afraid for my children."

"That's something to think about," grandmother Irma Escobedo told us.

There are increasing reports of super germs plaguing patients in hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings.

"Because everybody there is sick," said Smith. "So if you are in a hospital full of germs full of infectious people, you're going to pick it up if you stay long enough."

Jessica Smith just left the hospital with her two small children. Irma Escobedo took her granddaughters to see about their eye infections.

"That's crazy that's terrible you come here to get well and wind up having something worse," said Escobedo.

"I think all major cities are going through it and all major hospitals are going through it," said Dr. Anil Mangla, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District's Assistant Director of the Communicable Diseases Division.

Super germs are bacteria that have grown resistant to antibiotics used to kill them. In some cases the germs have mutated so much, there are few effective treatment options left.

"The concern is we're going to start seeing bacteria that's resistant to all of the antibiotics that we have available," explained Dr. Bowling.

The result could have deadly consequences for people with compromised immune systems. Dr. Bowling says super germs are not air born. Instead, they're most often spread from the hands of healthcare workers.

"It's important the people wash their hands and expect that their providers their doctors and nurses or any other healthcare provider wash their hands as well," Dr. Bowling told us.

Making matters worse, antibiotics are often prescribed unnecessarily and patients don't always finish their prescriptions.

"Two days go by and you feel better so you stop," Dr. Mangla said. "What you've done is you've not completely eliminated the bacteria in your system."

Doctor Mangla says the few living bacteria become resistant to the medication in your system. As the bacteria strengthens, they become harder to kill during the next infection, resulting in various strains of super bugs. The CDC counts nearly 2 million Americans infected and roughly 23,000 who have recently died.

"What people should do is only take antibiotics when indicated, only for the duration that they're indicated, and take them for the full course" explained Dr. Bowling.

Modern medicine is struggling to stay ahead of super germs.

"There are a couple of new antibiotics that have come out that might help a little bit," said Dr. Bowling. "But as we see increasing resistance, we're concerned that we might lose those as well."

Doctors say practicing basic hygiene helps.

"We need to wash our hands. Know that, that's what it comes down to. Wash your hands," said mom Jessica Smith.

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Doctors say a woman in Pennsylvania recently acquired a bacterial infection that is resistant to all available treatment. So far, it's an isolated case. The fear is if it spreads to others, then we may be facing a national crisis. She's currently undergoing treatment and is being closely monitored.

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