18-Year-Old California 'Superbug' Victim's Three-Month ICU Ordeal

Teen has been in and out of the ICU for three months after CRE infection.

February 20, 2015, 11:54 AM

— -- An 18-year-old is among the seven California hospital patients to come down with a deadly drug-resistant "superbug," and he's spent most of the last three months in the intensive care unit, his lawyer told ABC News.

"His prognosis at this time is guarded but optimistic," said Pete Kaufman, an attorney for the teen's family.

The teen already had an acute illness when he underwent an endoscopy procedure at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in December 2014, Kaufman said.

"Shortly after the procedure, he became gravely ill, and it was determined by the physicians at UCLA that he had contracted the CRE infection," Kaufman said.

The teen was an inpatient at the hospital for more than two months and spent a "significant amount of that time" in the ICU, Kaufman said. He was released, but returned to the hospital for another endoscopy procedure in January, causing him to become re-infected with CRE. He is still an inpatient at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, the lawyer said.

"It's the scope, the procedure that is now thought to have caused him to get the CRE infection," Kaufman said, adding that the teen's illness started with a fever and progressively got worse until he was "gravely, gravely ill."

Seven people have become infected with the drug-resistant "superbug" known as CRE at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after undergoing endoscopy procedures, and CRE may have played a role in two of its patients' deaths, hospital officials said Wednesday afternoon, adding that 179 people were exposed to the germ.

The scopes were new and had only been in use since June, said Dr. Zachary Rubin, medical director of clinical epidemiology and infection prevention at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

"There are several manufacturers for these scopes," said Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, deputy chief of the acute communicable disease control program, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. "Because of the complexity of these scopes, which is necessary for the life-saving procedures for these scopes, they are very, very difficult to clean. The manufacturer recommendations were followed by UCLA."

Kaufman, who has not yet filed any lawsuits on behalf of the victims, told ABC News that the focus of his case is the endoscope manufacturer, Olympus. An initial search did not reveal any existing legal cases against Olympus Corporation that are related to its endoscopes.

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