Beijing hospital denies hiding superbug deaths

By Yang Wanli (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-06-15 07:51
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Micro-blogger claims bug responsible for killing at least 10 patients

BEIJING - Health authorities on Tuesday ruled out a superbug outbreak at one of the city's top hospitals, following a micro blog posting on Monday that claimed it hid about 10 deaths caused by the superbug.

The micro blog user, named "Lucky Likun", also posted a photo showing three men standing outside Beijing Anzhen Hospital, one of the city's best hospitals famous for treating heart diseases. The men held paper banners proclaiming many people had died in the hospital due to a superbug and they wanted to see the president of the hospital.

The hospital posted a statement on its official micro blog at 10 pm on Monday, saying that there has been no superbug at the hospital and the micro blog user who released the misleading information is a family member of a patient who died in the hospital, according to the statement.

The statement said that the 40-year-old female patient received heart surgery in April and was affected by acinetobacter baumannii, a species of pathogenic bacteria which is simply called A. baumannii.

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According to the statement, the bacteria weakened the patient's immune system and the woman died in May.

"Her family was not satisfied with our compensation and released the misleading information in order to gain public attention," it said.

A. baumannii enters the body through open wounds, catheters and breathing tubes. It poses no threat to people not already ill, but healthcare workers and hospital visitors can carry the bacteria into neighboring wards.

An employee at Anzhen Hospital, who declined to be identified, told China Daily that the patient's family wanted 1 million yuan ($154,000) in compensation, but the hospital would only give 600,000 yuan.

The employee also said that this is not the first case of A. baumannii at the hospital.

The leaders of the hospital couldn't be reached for comment on Tuesday.

However, Zhang Jianshu, a press officer from the Beijing health bureau, told China Daily that no superbugs have been found in Beijing.

"Thousands of patients go to Anzhen every day and most are severe cases. Even about 10 deaths in the past month is not a surprising number," Zhang said.

According to a New York Times report in February 2010, as a result of its resistance to drug treatment, it is estimated that A. baumannii is killing tens of thousands of US hospital patients each year.

Li Xiang contributed to this story.