Eight people have died after contracting a “superbug” in Vila Nova de Gaia state hospital, while 13 are still battling the infection and remain in isolation.
The bacterial scourge came to peak over the last two months in which as many as 30 patients were found to be infected.
With wards shut down for disinfection and as extra personnel are drafted in, authorities have been quick to assure the local community that klebsiella pneumoniae is not a threat to people with healthy immune systems.
Those who have died so far all had “complicated clinical pathologies, or were in post-op situations” which made them “more vulnerable”, hospital boss Margarida Mota told reporters – admitting nonetheless that new cases could transpire over the coming week, as the hospital has just run a check on 44 vulnerable patients.
Meantime, hygiene standards are being stressed, with anyone visiting a patient at the hospital advised to wash their hands thoroughly after any skin contact.
“Bacteria kill 4,600 per year”
As national concerns rest for the moment on klebsiella – a bacteria resistant to penicillin-based antibiotics – the truth is that every year 4,600 people die from ‘superbug’ infections picked up in Portuguese hospitals.
National tabloid Correio da Manhhã has published graphs today showing how much infections here have leaped since 2007. The bottom line is that Portugal ranks poorly in relation to European averages.
Specialist nurse Pedro Melo has explained this can be linked to low staffing levels in state hospitals.
“If there is one nurse for 20 patients, it is quite normal for things like this to be more difficult to deal with,” he told CM – though he too stressed the multi-resistant superbug posed little threat to local communities.
“It is a bacteria that is not transmitted to healthy people. At this point, the patients (with it) are isolated. The risk of transmission is almost zero”.
Klebsiella pneumoniae, as its name suggests, can provoke pneumonia. Symptoms include fever, pains throughout the body, respiratory and urinary tract problems.