INFECTIOUS DISEASE: Hospital-Acquired Infections Rise
Since last tracked between 1975 and 1980, "[t]he rate of infections picked up by patients while they're in the hospital has increased 36%," according to a nationwide survey of 265 hospitals. USA Today reports that the survey results were released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at a meeting yesterday on emerging infectious disease. Approximately "two million people a year acquire such infections, and nearly 90,000 die of them," according to William Jarvis of the CDC. Jarvis says the results could be much worse without hospital infection-control programs that have been required for hospital accreditation since 1976. He said that without such programs, "there would have been a 50% to 70% increase," primarily because patients in hospitals today are much sicker than those 20 years ago. Sicker patients are more vulnerable to infections because of depressed immune systems or because they are subject to "invasive equipment, such as catheters," which provide entry routes for infection. Antibiotic resistant organisms are also more prevalent in hospitals. "At least 70% of the bacteria that cause hospital-acquired infections are resistant to at least one antibiotic," according to CDC's Fred Tenover.
Spreading Costs And Disease?
"Hospital-acquired infections add about $4.5 billion a year to health care costs," said Jarvis. Nearly a third of them could be prevented by simple precautions such as "frequent hand washing by health care workers ... but many are unavoidable, caused by microbes carried in the patient's own body" (Manning, 3/11).