Hospitals: Staph Infections Are Rampant

The Chicago Tribune reports that 1.2 million hospital patients are infected with dangerous drug-resistant staph infections every year—10 times more than previously estimated according to a new study. The paper also reported that 48,000 to 119,000 hospital patients a year may be dying from methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections, far more than previously thought. Great!

The Tribune obtained the results during the weekend from the Association for Professionals in Infection Control & Epidemiology (APIC), which is releasing the report publicly on Monday. The author is Dr. William Jarvis, former acting director of the hospital infections program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings come amid mounting public concern about the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in health-care facilities and community settings. Medical experts consider the rise of so-called superbugs such as MRSA, a leading cause of deadly blood infections and pneumonias, one of the most alarming public health threats in the nation.

“We’re hoping this survey is a wake-up call to health-care workers across America,” said Kathy Warye, the association’s executive officer.

It is the largest, most comprehensive survey of MRSA in health-care facilities to date. It’s based on surveys sent last year to 10,000 infection-control practitioners, including doctors and nurses in hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities.

Hear that, heath-care workers? Wake up call. The good news is that much can be done to stop the spread of the bug:

All health-care workers should practice rigorous hand-washing, and all institutions should have robust programs for disinfecting medical equipment and patients’ rooms, he said. When patients are known to have MRSA, hospital staff should wear gowns and gloves to prevent transmission. And patients deemed at risk of carrying MRSA should be screened to determine where bacterial hot spots are festering.

“Now that the true extent of this scandalously tragic epidemic is known, I hope that health-care leadership will finally confront it with the effective means that have always been available,” said Michael Bennett, president of the Coalition for Patients’ Rights in Maryland.

We love it when there is hope.

Staph infections rampant [Chicago Tribune]