CHICAGO (CBS) — A new study suggests there’s been an increase in the types and number of so-called antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as “superbugs” found in Chicago-area health care facilities.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya Reports

The survey was conducted by Rush University Medical Center and the Cook County Department of Public Health.

It found that, between last year and this year, the number of health care facilities reporting patients with bacterial infections increased by 30 percent and that the number “of patients who tested positive for the bacteria nearly tripled.”

One of the researchers, Dr. Mary Hayden of Rush University Medical Center, said “it’s difficult to deal with when the patient becomes infected with one of these … bacteria because they tend to be very resistant to antibiotics.”

Hayden said that because treatment is so tough and death rates related to the infection so high, it’s extremely important to prevent the spread of these bacteria in the first place.

“They do have the potential to be life threatening,” Hayden told CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole. “They are a particular problem because they are resistant to most and sometimes to all the antibiotics doctors have available.”

According to Hayden, spread of the bacteria happens, many times, when a patient with the bacteria is transferred from one health care facility to another, such as being transferred from a nursing home to a hospital.

Ways that health care facilities have tried to prevent the spread of bacteria include: isolating patients who have the bacteria, improving environmental hygiene in the facilities, including improved cleaning of the skin of the patient and “additional attention to hand health care by health care workers.”

Dr. Hayden said, “The bacteria are very clever.” She said the bacteria reproduce very rapidly and that allows them a lot of opportunities to develop resistance.

Last year, 49 percent of the 54 health facilities that took part in the survey reported at least one patient with drug-resistant bacteria, with an average of four exposed patients per hospital.

This year, 66 percent of the 57 facilities in the survey reported at least one patient, and the average number of patients per hospital jumped to 10.

Hayden called that “a statistically significant increase”.

Hayden was in Vancouver, Canada, on Friday to present the study to the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya and CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole contributed to this report.