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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

HAIs on the front page: Welcome to the fight USA Today

Once relatively unknown to the public and described in arcane terms like “nosocomial,” health care associated infections (HAIs) are now literally front-page news. A USA Today cover story on Clostridium difficile is the latest example. Public awareness is being dramatically raised and patients should be safer as a result.

The report effectively humanizes the epidemic by focusing on a young woman with recurrent infections. Her story becomes the entry point to a broader discussion that includes interviews with health officials and poignant snaphots of those who died of C. diff. The newspaper story doesn’t quite get into all the equivocations and conundrums infection preventionists, hospitals and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must face in fighting this and a panoply of other infections. For example, the relatively brief comments by the loquacious Cliff McDonald, MD, a leading CDC C. diff investigator, do not delve into the agency’s protracted struggle with the NAP1 virulent C. diff strain that emerged over the last decade. That said, all would agree that more can be done to protect these patients, and these kind of stories are important to get others to join the fight and generate resources for hospital infection control and prevention.

Of course, the unintended consequences of such highly publicized reports can be misguided legislation, which too often calls for screening large numbers of patients and health care workers without clearly understanding the nuances of testing issues and limited follow-up options. That’s why many infection preventionists emphasize that using standard precautions against all pathogens is a better approach than altering programs to fight a single bug. There is always a new one emerging.