Over 2,000 people have come into contact with superbug at Tallaght Hospital

According to internal figures seen by the Irish Times, and reported in today’s edition of the paper, the local hospital has had an outbreak of the potentially lethal bug carbapenem resistant enterobacteriaceae (CRE) for the past 18 months.

Of the 2,000 people exposed most would have tested negative for the bug, with 142 patients found to be carriers.

Three people were found to have an invasive form of CRE, a bug which is generally not a risk to healthy people but poses a serious danger to patients whose immune systems are low.

Patients who are using catheters and ventilators or are taking antibiotics are the highest risk of becoming infected by the bug which is passed on by touch.

There are only a few antibiotics which can kill off the infection.

Since the outbreak was first confirmed last August, leading to the closing of the Fogarty and Crampton wards, the hospital has consistently refused to comment on its size.

As per the The Irish Times investigation the number of cases has declined since last autumn, though this month the hospital recorded 22 patients who are carriers of CRE and 11 who have come into contact with the bacterium.

A spokeswoman told the paper that Tallaght Hospital was continuing to manage a number of CRE cases, but the number of new cases was steadily reducing. She said:

“All current inpatients with CRE are carriers and thus experience no symptoms or harm.

“In rare cases, this can develop into an infection which can be difficult to treat.”

The hospital is continuing to restrict visitor numbers in order to prevent further exposure to CRE.