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CDC Studies: More Than 200 Americans Die Every Day From Health Care-Associated Infections

National and state data detail threat

On any given day, approximately one in 25 U.S. patients has at least one infection contracted during the course of their hospital care, adding up to about 722,000 infections in 2011, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This information is an update to previous CDC estimates of health care-associated infections (HAIs).

The agency has released two new reports — one a New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) article detailing 2011 national health care-associated infection estimates from a survey of hospitals in 10 states, and the other a 2012 annual report on national and state-specific progress toward U.S. Health and Human Services HAI prevention goals. Together, the reports show that progress has been made in the effort to eliminate infections that commonly threaten hospital patients, but more work is needed to improve patient safety.

“Although there has been some progress, today and every day, more than 200 Americans with health care-associated infections will die during their hospital stay,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “The most advanced medical care won’t work if clinicians don’t prevent infections through basic things such as regular hand hygiene. Health care workers want the best for their patients; following standard infection control practices every time will help ensure their patients’ safety.”

The NEJM article used 2011 data from 183 U.S. hospitals to estimate the burden of a wide range of infections in hospital patients. That year, approximately 721,800 infections occurred in 648,000 hospital patients. About 75,000 patients with HAIs died during their hospitalizations. The most common HAIs were pneumonia (22%), surgical-site infections (22%), gastrointestinal infections (17%), urinary tract infections (13%), and bloodstream infections (10%).

The most common organisms causing HAIs were C. difficile (12%); Staphylococcus aureus, including methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) (11%), Klebsiella (10%); Escherichia coli (9%), Enterococcus (9%), and Pseudomonas (7%). Klebsiella and E. coli are members of the family, which has become increasingly resistant to last-resort carbapenem antibiotics.

The second report includes a subset of infection types that are commonly required to be reported to the CDC. On the national level, the report found a 44% decrease in central line-associated bloodstream infections between 2008 and 2012; a 20% decrease in infections related to the 10 surgical procedures tracked in the report between 2008 and 2012; a 4% decrease in hospital-onset MRSA infections between 2011 and 2012; and a 2% decrease in hospital-onset Clostridium difficile infections between 2011 and 2012.

Sources: CDC; March 26, 2014; and NEJM; March 27, 2014.

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