KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Hospital Staph Infection Rate Drops With Stepped Up National Prevention Effort

The rate of drug-resistant staph hospital-acquired infections has dropped as the U.S. has stepped up prevention efforts to fight the deadly condition, The Associated Press reports. "The decline was seen in a federal study of methicillin-resistant staph, or MRSA. The bug often causes only a boil or skin infection. But researchers in the study focused on invasive cases that can become deadly, invading the bloodstream, flesh, lungs and bones. Researchers found that in nine metro areas, cases of MRSA (MUR'-suh) fell about 16 percent between 2005 and 2008. That translates to a drop from about 32 cases per 100,000 to 26 cases per 100,000 people. The results suggest aggressive efforts to stop the germ from spreading are working, researchers said. Such efforts include better hand-washing by doctors and nurses, and testing for MRSA when patients are admitted to the hospital" (Tanner, 8/10).

Los Angeles Times: "MRSA has been the most prominent of the infections that spread easily in hospitals. Though the Staphylococcus aureus bacterium is commonly found on skin and in the nose and is typically harmless, in cases of invasive MRSA - the focus of this study - it spreads to the blood, lungs, soft tissue, bones or joints. The infection can progress rapidly, and is difficult to treat. An estimated 90,000 MRSA infections linked to healthcare are reported each year in the United States, causing about 15,000 deaths, mostly among older people or people with underlying illnesses" (Roan, 8/10).

In the meantime, Tennessee is working to reduce the risk of blood infections in newborns, the (Nashville) Tennesseean reports. "High-risk babies in Tennessee are 40 percent more likely than the national average to get blood infections from central lines, the state found in its first detailed look at bacterial blood infections in neonatal intensive care units. … Health officials said improperly inserted or poorly maintained lines could be driving the high rates. In infants, the lines are put into the umbilical area or in veins in the upper arm." A statewide initiative aims to cut the rate by half in the next five years. "Tennessee lawmakers mandated in 2006 that hospitals collect and report data on bacterial blood infections in adult and pediatric intensive care units. The initial report in January on adult intensive care showed that bacterial blood infections for that group were 20 percent higher than the national average. In this updated report, that margin dropped to 19 percent. Twenty-eight states require hospitals to publicly report their infections to help identify what is causing so many people to get sick" (Sanchez, 8/11).

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