Why We Keep Getting Bugged, II

Why do the Centers for Disease Control, which recently listed guidelines to prevent hospital infections, conspicuously omit universal testing of patients for methicillin-resistant Staph (MRSA), one of the most common causes of hospital-acquired infections? As a typical example of Government groupthink, the CDC continues to call for voluntary AIDS blood testing while hospital-acquired infections cause five times as many deaths as AIDS in this country.

Among developed countries, the United States has one of the worst records for curbing, not only MRSA, but other drug-resistant infections. The CDC itself noted a 32-fold increase in MRSA hospital infections between 1976 and 2003. 25 years ago Denmark, Finland, and the Netherlands faced similarly soaring rates of MRSA, but have nearly eradicated it. How was this accomplished?

Hospital Infections in Europe and Canada

In an eye-catching article in the online magazine, Slate, “Europe is killing off hospital infections. Why isn’t the United States following suit?”, Arthur Allen writes, “If you are an American admitted to a hospital in Amsterdam, Toronto, or Copenhagen these days, you’ll be considered a biohazard. Doctors and nurses will likely put you into quarantine while they determine whether you’re carrying methicillin-resistant staph…If you test positive for MRSA these European and Canadian hospital workers will don protective gloves, masks, and gowns each time they approach you, and then strip off the gear and scrub down vigorously when they leave your room. The process is known as “search and destroy.”

After five years of deliberation, the CDC continues its refusal to endorse search and destroy. Allen adds, “…This is a bitter pill for many infectious-disease experts, who have been joined by the relatives of dead patients, Consumers Union, and even a few Congress members in pressing the CDC.” “Why are we spending millions if not billions on bird flu, a ghost that might not happen, when you have thousands being colonized by MRSA and dying of it?” asks Dr. William Jarvis, a top CDC hospital-infection expert until he resigned in 2003.

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