Nonetheless, NIH officials informed Maryland health department officials about the Klebsiella case last week, state health department spokeswoman Dori Henry said Friday.
Montgomery County health officials were not aware of the death, a county health department spokeswoman said, although Gallin said the NIH had also informed the county of the death.
Klebsiella infections are a major problem for severely ill hospitalized people whose immune systems are weakened. Experts, including Gallin, are quick to reassure the public that such hospital-borne infections pose no risk to healthy people outside hospitals.
In 2011, about 80 percent of Maryland’s acute-care hospitals had at least one patient with carbapenem-resistant bacterial infection — the larger class of infections to which resistant Klebsiella belongs — Henry said in an e-mail.
Nationwide, about 6 percent of hospitals are battling outbreaks of this class of superbugs, according to the CDC, which has stepped up nationwide surveillance. Strains similar to those seen at NIH have spread across the world since first appearing in North Carolina in 2001, Gallin said.
Maryland said it is working with hospitals, nursing homes and other organizations to control and prevent infections through good hand hygiene, screening of patients for bacteria, room cleaning, and the judicious use of antibiotics.
At Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, which is near the NIH clinical center, hospital officials said they have had no outbreaks of drug-resistant Klebsiella. Only once or twice in the past year has there been evidence of such an infection, said Rita Smith, manager of the hospital’s infection control efforts.
The most common drug-resistant infections at Suburban, part of the Johns Hopkins health system, include methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, E. coli, and Clostridium difficile.