Preventable Hospital Infections Kill 99,000 Every Year

An astounding 99,000 people die annually from <"">preventable infections contracted in hospitals in the United States. Now, finally, state laws are catching up and are prompting hospitals to begin reporting these infections. According to WebMD, citing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this reporting appears to be helping to minimize the trend.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, said, quoted WebMD, that, “All 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico recently published state action plans to reduce hospital-acquired infections.” The move is a step in the right direction; however, Lisa McGiffert, campaign manager for lobbying group Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project, noted that most hospitals were unaware of what was actually occurring. “When we started, we thought hospitals knew their infection rates and were keeping them secret,” McGiffert told WebMD. “But they were not tracking them at all. If you are not aware of something you can’t stop it. Where hospitals have been forced to face this and count it, it has created a sea change,” McGiffert added.

A recent CDC report contains information compiled from 17 states on one specific hospital-acquired infection—central-line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs)—wrote WebMD. CLABSIs comprised one-third of all hospital-acquired infection fatalities and involves the central-line catheters typically placed in the very ill, explained WebMD.

According to WebMD, the information is not as helpful as hoped because of differences in how information is collected and verified, that there is no data on specific hospitals, and that this is the first time information has been compiled. This means that there is no way to compare states and it is difficult to determine if any given state is improving or declining.

According to Argon Srinivasan, MD, associate director of the health care-associated infection prevention program at the CDC, “The real importance of this report will be to compare it with new data that will be gathered every six months,” quoted WebMD. “Then we’ll know how much progress we are making toward our ultimate goal of eliminating hospital infections.” McGiffert said, “The main thing this means is that the CDC has finally embraced public reporting as a component of prevention strategies,” reported WebMD.

We recently reported that an increase is being seen in the number of children hospitalized each year with dangerous, often deadly, drug-resistant staph infections. According to the Associated Press (AP), the increase in recent years has been a whopping ten-fold and has been cited as from two to 21 per 1,000 hospital admissions from 1999 to 2008, said the AP.

Although the study looked at 25 children’s hospitals, the increase is believed to have taken place across the country, said Dr. Jason Newland, reported the AP. Dr. Newland is the study’s lead author and an infectious disease physician at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The hospitals studied reported hospitalizations of nearly 30,000 children over 10 years with most presenting with skin or muscle infections; 374 children died, said the AP.

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