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

MRSA patients urge SHEA, CDC to declare an epidemic

A patient advocacy group called the MRSA Survivors Network is urging the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to finally declare MRSA an ongoing epidemic” during SHEA's annual conference that begins today in Dallas.

A bacterial infection frequently acquired in the nation’s hospitals by patients seeking treatment for some other malady, MRSA is now killing more Americans than HIV/AIDS.

Jeanine Thomas, founder of the Chicago-based network argues that infection control organizations and public health officials should finally recognize this “public health disaster” by acknowledging the enormous and growing scientific evidence that support active detection and isolation (ADI) for the control of MRSA. The MRSA group is calling for ADI to be mandated in U.S. healthcare facilities immediately.

The U.S. Veteran's Administration hospital systems have taken the lead by implementing ADI for MRSA first in their intensive care units, now hospital-wide and in their long-term care facilities, the MRSA group noted.

“This intervention has resulted in a significant reduction in infections, saved many lives and saved hospitals money,” the MRSA Survivors Network said in a statement. “So why does SHEA, CDC and the department of Health and Human Services continue with inaction, failure to lead or implement evidence-based, proven prevention interventions for MRSA as more Americans continue to be infected, disabled or die in U.S. healthcare facilities?

The action follows a special report last year in the November and December issues of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention, which found that the VA system has reduced MRSA by 76% by using ADI and other strategies. The CDC is aware of the findings, but balks at urging widespread implementation of the VA policy.

“Our job here at CDC is to make sure that all health care is safe — not to tackle a specific organism at the exclusion of others,” Michael Bell, MD, deputy director of the CDC division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, said in our report.

You might fairly ask, “This, from the nation that eliminated polio and led the world in eradicating smallpox?”

However, other epidemiologists also caution against tailoring infection control efforts against a single pathogen, arguing instead for a standard precautions approach that includes flexibility to go to more enhanced measures.

Regardless, MRSA patient advocacy groups have caught the attention of state and federal lawmakers, and legislative mandates to prevent the bacterial infection continue to be discussed and implemented.