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2 deaths linked to superbug at UCLA hospital, with 180 patients potentially exposed

At least seven patients treated at UCLA's Ronald Reagan Medical Center between October to January have been infected by the drug-resistant superbug CRE, and two deaths have been linked to the outbreak.

Nearly 180 were potentially exposed, the Los Angeles Times reports, and the number could go up as more people are tested. UCLA said it discovered the outbreak in late January, and started notifying patients this week. The superbug can stay on a specialized endoscope that that is used to treat cancers and digestive system issues and is hard to disinfect due to its design. In a statement, UCLA said that it had been cleaning the scopes "according to standards stipulated by the manufacturer," but once it found out about the infections began to disinfect them "above and beyond" regulations and removed the two scopes involved with the infections.

Once the infection spreads to the bloodstream, it is estimated to kill 40 to 50 percent of patients, and CDC epidemiologist Dr. Alex Kallen said these outbreaks are a serious threat. "This bacteria is emerging in the U.S. and it's associated with a high mortality rate," he told the Times. "We don't want this circulating anywhere in the community."