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April 16th Congressional Hearing on Hospital Infections

NEW YORK, April 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --Tomorrow Congress will hold hearings on whether the federal government is doing enough to prevent deadly hospital infections. The answer is "no." The biggest culprit is the CDC. The CDC claims 1.7 million people contract infections in U.S. hospitals each year. The truth is several times that number. The proof is in the data.

One of the fastest growing infections is "Mersa" or MRSA, which stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a superbug that doesn't respond to most antibiotics. In 1993, there were fewer than 2,000 MRSA infections in U.S. hospitals. By 2005, the figure had shot up to 368,000 according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. By June, 2007, 2.4 percent of all patients had MRSA hospital infections, according to the largest-ever study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control. That would mean 880,000 victims a year.

That's from one superbug. Imagine the number of infections from bacteria of all kinds, including such killers as VRE (vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus) and C. diff (Clostridium difficile). Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently told Congress that MRSA accounts for only 8 percent of hospital infections.

These new facts discredit the CDC's official number. "It's an irresponsible guesstimate based on a sliver of data from 2002. You can't responsibly deal with a health threat based on six year old data," McCaughey contends. d

The CDC is failing to set high standards for cleaning and screening - the two methods required to stop the rapid spread of germs from patient to patient.

The CDC fails to set cleanliness standards. "Restaurants are inspected for cleanliness, but not hospitals, not even operating rooms. The consequences of inadequate hygiene are far deadlier in hospitals than restaurants. 2,500 people die each year after picking up a food borne illness in a restaurant or prepared food store. Over forty times that many people die from hospital infections.

Numerous studies link hospital acquired infections to unclean surfaces and equipment. Hospitals used to routinely test surfaces for bacteria. In 1970, the CDC and the American Hospital Association advised hospitals to stop testing, and they still adhere to that position, despite the infections raging through hospitals. "Testing surfaces is so simple and inexpensive that it's used routinely in the food processing industry. How can it be more important to test for bacteria in a hot dog factory than in an operating room," says McCaughey.

The CDC fails to call on all hospitals to screen for MRSA. Screening is necessary because patients who unknowingly carry the germ on their body shed it in particles on every surface. With screening, hospitals can identify the MRSA positive patients, and take steps to prevent the germ from spreading. Congress and seven state legislatures are considering making screening mandatory. Illinois, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania acted in 2007. Why is legislation needed? Because the CDC has failed to provide leadership. Its lax guidelines give hospitals an excuse to do too little.

"It is common for government regulators to become soft on the industry they are supposed to regulate. A coziness develops. CDC administrators should spend less time with hospital executives and more time listening to grieving families," says McCaughey.

Betsy McCaughey, Ph.D. is available immediately for interview and will be in Washington, D.C. on April 16th for the hearing.

SOURCE Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths
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