AN EPIDEMIC of an antibiotic-resistant superbug is spreading throughout the hospital system in Palestine’s Gaza City, with doctors warning of a ‘global health security issue’ as the threat of the bug spilling over the Palestinian border has become very real.
Gaza’s health system has been hit hard by the siege which has lasted for over a decade as the Israeli regime on one side and the Egyptian state on the other stop essential goods from getting in.
Both medicine and fuel are blockaded, which means that not only is treatment limited, but hospitals are hit by constant power cuts as there is not enough fuel to run the generators.
At times doctors are not even able to wash their hands and there are shortages of gloves, gowns and chlorine tablets for disinfecting. The scale of the problem was highlighted after more than 200 people were killed and thousands injured, mostly shot in the legs, during the ‘Great March of Return’ protests.
Dr Mahmoud Mattar, an orthopaedic surgeon, said around 2,000 Gazans are currently suffering with serious gunshot injuries to the legs that would typically require multiple reconstruction operations and two years of rehabilitation.
Nearly all of these patients have also contracted superbug infections, meaning surgeons have to delay closing their wounds. That reduces the chances of successful reconstruction, extends hospital stays and increases the risk of amputation. Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah, who studies conflict medicine at the American University of Beirut Medical Centre (AUBMC), said: ‘It will always get out.
‘The untreated sewage from Gaza containing multi-drug-resistant bacteria goes into the aquifer and that is a shared aquifer with Egypt and Israel. ‘There are papers from Scotland that show actually multi-drug-resistant bacteria can be found in the pellets of migrating birds. The idea anyone could be immune to this phenomenon is absurd.’
Dina Nasser, lead infection control nurse at Augusta Victoria hospital in East Jerusalem, who has also worked in Gaza, said: ‘This is a global health security issue because multi-drug-resistant organisms don’t know any boundaries.’