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The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

New CDC reports highlight how far there is to go in reducing hospital infections

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released two reports on hospital-acquired infections, and how you view the data probably says a lot about whether you’re a glass-half-full sort of person.

Not generally known for wide-eyed optimism, most journalists led with the most provocative statistic. Witness CNN’s headline: “1 in 25 patients gets infection in hospital.”

But the reports aren’t all bad news. In fact, things generally seem to have improved on the infection control front, but not enough for anyone to consider complacency an option. The numbers in most categories remain unacceptably high.

The first of the CDC’s reports, the Multistate Point-Prevalence Survey of Health Care-Associated Infections, was published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine. According to a CDC news release, the study “used 2011 data from 183 U.S. hospitals to estimate the burden of a wide range of infections in hospital patients.” Of the 648,000 hospital patients who acquired infections, about 75,000 died in the hospital. According to the CDC, these were the most common infections:

  • pneumonia (22%)
  • surgical-site infections (22%)
  • gastrointestinal infections (17%)
  • urinary tract infections (13%)
  • bloodstream infections (10%)
C. difficile topped the list of culprits, followed closely by MRSA, Klebsiella, and E. Coli.

The news is somewhat better in the other report, the National and State Healthcare-associated Infection Progress Report, which found the following, according to the CDC:

  • 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 bloodstream infections between 2011 and 2012;
  • a 2% decrease in hospital-onset C. difficile infections between 2011 and 2012.
The CLABSI numbers in particular are heartening, but it’s hard to get too excited about the minimal progress on C. diff and MRSA. And, unfortunately, catheter-associated urinary tract infections actually rose by 3% between 2009 and 2012.

In its “Call to Action” at the end of the second report, the CDC mentions that it’s “working with health departments and quality improvement groups to specifically identify and assist hospitals in need of infection prevention assistance.” In a press briefing yesterday, Dr. Michael Bell, deputy director of the CDC’s division of healthcare quality promotion, explained, “At the state and federal levels we use this data to find the facilities that are struggling with one or more types of infection. Then we try to target resources toward those areas.” He also made a point of emphasizing the importance of antibiotic stewardship, which is increasingly seen as a way to reduce C. diff infections.

For much more on hospital infection control and prevention, check out our sister blog, HICprevent, written by Gary Evans.