Archive for the ‘methicillin resistant staph’ Category

Why We Keep Getting Bugged, II

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

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.

Staph Redux:Why we Keep Getting Bugged,Part I

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

It takes tragic news of rare sporadic fatal Staph cases, like the 12 year old student in Brooklyn and the high school student in Virginia to ignite public awareness of a serious public health problem.Two weeks ago the Government announced that over 19,000 Americans died last year, after being infected with an organism commonly found on the skin and in the nose of unsuspecting healthy people, Staphylococcus aureus. This bacterium, carried by almost a third of the population is itself rarely a serious public health problem, but a super-Staph called methicillin resistant staph aureus or MRSA Staph, which has developed antibiotic resistance, though carried by only 1% of healthy people, is indeed a major health menace. The vast majority of fatal cases counted by the Government, occurred not among the healthy population, but were acquired in patients subsequent to being hospitalized.

Yet a year ago I wrote about hospital-acquired infections in my newsletter after the State of Pennsylvania gave alarming statistics on life-threatening infections acquired after patients are admitted to Pennsylvania hospitals.The report, though 15 years behind several Western European countries, was the first in the United States to disclose actual number of infections reported by hospitals. Fifteen others states also require hospitals to report infection data, although, curiously, not all of them have plans to make the data public. Pennsylvania hospitals reported over 19,000 cases of hospital-acquired infection, 2.2% of all admissions, The combined mortality rate for patients with a hospital-acquired infection was 13%, more than five times the mortality rate for patients without a hospital-acquired infection.

Staph, in particular methicillin resistant or MRSA Staph is among the most common causes of hospital-acquired infections (HAI). Staph does not cause infection until it enters the body, but any carrier once admitted to hospitals spreads staph around such that it is found almost everywhere including personnel, dishes, bedrails, toilets, towels, medical instruments, clothes, furniture, trays, etc. In 1974 only 2% of staph infections were resistant to methicillin; called “methicillin resistant Staph aureus” or MRSA. Today, over 60% of staph infections are MRSA’s, i.e., resistant to the antibiotic because of widespread and irresponsibly inappropriate use of antibiotics over the last three decades.

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