MRSA: Killing More Americans everyday

APIC (Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology) is holding its annual meeting this week, and today published the results of its latest findings on the number of people who die from MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) and other HAIs (hospital acquired infections).  These are superbug staph infections, usually acquired by hospital patients, but sometimes transmitted in the community as well.  Superbugs are called such because they have developed a resistance to drugs — nothing can kill them. 

That means — once a patient contracts a MRSA infection, s/he usually can’t get rid of it.  S/he will be infected for the rest of his/her life.

Bottom line?  Between 48,000 and 119,000 patients per year may be acquiring these infections.  That represents 46 per 1,000 patients.  These numbers are much higher than previously believed, and higher than reported in previous studies.  In particular, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had previously reported only 3.9 deaths per thousand.

If I’m doing my own math correctly, that means that the REAL rate is 120 times WORSE than what we thought?

And the thing that ticks me off about this the most?  These infections are PREVENTABLE!  If the proper precautions are taken in hospitals, then there is no reason why patients should acquire staph infections in the hospital.  None.

And do you know what the proper precautions consist of?  In most cases… simply washing one’s hands.  The bugs are most often transferred from a healthy person to a sick person.  Most of us have MRSA bugs living in our noses and we have no symptoms or illness from them. But people who have compromised immune systems (either they have an open wound, just had surgery, an auto-immune disease, a catheter inserted for a long time, or are elderly and probably frail) — they pick up the bugs from us healthy people and the bug has a field day.  Tens of thousands of them die.

VERY interesting way they did this research…  10,000 infection-control practitioners, including doctors and nurses in hospitals, nursing homes and rehab centers, were asked to document ONE day (last fall, between October and November).  A snapshot in time.  They counted the known cases of MRSA in their institutions.  1,200 hospitals and 100 nursing homes and rehab centers, representing all 50 states, submitted results.

(Hmmm…. I wonder why the others didn’t participate?  Is it possible they were afraid their rates were too high and someone would find out about it?  does that make it possible that even these numbers are too low?)

I know of two family friends who acquired infections in hospitals — then died.  In both cases, their causes of death were listed as what they were admitted with.  In both cases, my sense and intuition tell me that they would have survived had they not acquired those HAIs.

Knowing what you know about how infection spread can be avoided, think of it this way:  if one nurse or one doctor had bothered washing his or her hands, then my friends might not have died.

By my own observation, I have seen how lax health care providers are about hygiene.  Other studies have been undertaken to document how little regard practioners have for concientiously keeping their hands sanitized and clean.  I’m sure it’s a pain in the catoochie to have to wash and sanitize before touching every patient… but… when it can mean the difference between life and death?  Seriously.

Sharp patients know to watch out for violations when they must be in the hospital.  Ask providers to wash their hands, and use sanitizer, at every turn.  Don’t be embarrassed to ask!  Even if you are a visitor, you need to know you can transmit the bugs.  Be sure to clean bed rails, TV remotes, telephones — anything you touch that the patient also touches. Be diligent, because it can mean the difference between life and death.

More guidelines can be found here:  hospitalinfection.org 

APIC does a good job of suggesting their own steps and precautions for hospitals and other facilities to begin cutting the spread of HAIs.  What we know, from past experience, is that too many of these facilities don’t care to stop those infections.

Why?  Because their perception is that it will be too expensive to stop the infection madness.  They think they are saving money by not setting themselves up to stop the infection to begin with.  And they think they are making more money because patients have to stay in the hospital longer.  And their perception is THEIR reality. 

Neither of those statements is true, according to previous APIC studies.

How sad, that the REAL cost of HAIs is the loss of lives AND affects their wallets.  Why can’t they hear that message?

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3 Responses to “MRSA: Killing More Americans everyday”


  1. 1 Mil June 26, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    My mother contacted MSRA from a Dr’s Office, after numerous complaints after she received a injection in her foot her foot turned purple and had blisters at the injection sight at first then all over her foot. He drained the blisters but did not I repeat DID NOT culture the fluid sent her home with full blown MRSA her foot began to rot off and had to be amputated! This was not the only case in this office 13 others contacted it 4 others were also in the hospital. Why are we not able to contact these health dept and find out if there has been any reported cases in these Dr’s offices in order to protect ourselves from this deadly infection or is there a way?

  2. 2 Trisha Torrey June 26, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    Mil, You may not be able to get THAT information, but what you can do is report the problem your mother had. At least, down the road when this kind of information begins to become public, your mother’s horrible experience will be included in those statistics. (no, they won’t use her personal information.)

    Try contacting two groups: Your state health department, and your state’s medical board, which licenses doctors and investigates problems such as you describe.

    I don’t know where you live, but you can get a master list of medical boards here: http://www.fsmb.org/directory_smb.html

    To get the right link for your state’s health department, you’ll have to google the name of your state, plus “health department” — that should get you where you want to go.

    To get information about physician quality (which may have the information you’ve asked about, but it depends on where you live), see a master list at: http://www.diagKNOWsis.org

    Thanks for posting.

    Trisha

  3. 3 Laurie Davis July 24, 2007 at 7:59 am

    My Mother died Oct. 3 2005 in a small hospital in the Finger She had fallen and broken her hip, had surgery and I was told it was an uncomplicated replacement of the ball and that her recovery would be fast.

    It rapidly became apparent that she was not recovering, that she was confused, and very ill while in the hospital. I was told it was ‘the anesthesia’ that was effecting her, but it would soon be resolved by time. I was convinced by the hospital’s ‘advocate’ that it would be better if her rehab was done in the facility connected to the hospital….’her doctors would be readily available if needed”, etc. Days turned into weeks and she seemed worse.

    Finally after begging the staff for days to ‘do something’, that she was rapidly deteriorating, they finally called in the Physicians Assistant from the surgeon’s office (no Dr. ever came to see her from that office until then). As I stood next to her bed, the PA told the nurse that she had such a bad infection in her surgical wound that it had broken open. The PA told me that she would need another surgery to basically ‘cut out the dead tissue’ caused by the infection. He said that they would then treat her with a strong antibiotic and hope that would take care of the infection – – if not they would have to ‘remove the prosthetic, treat the area, put in a ‘spacer’ essentially, wait weeks and then redo the replacement of the prosthetic…… all because of this infection that she acquired while in this facility. I was stunned – – he told me it wasn’t so bad – – it was just like the surgery she had just undergone, essentially. I told him ‘she is 82 years old’, this would be traumatic for a 30 year old’.

    The story goes on for over a year – – multiple regimens of vancomyacin. ..slight improvement and then the infection would take over her body again. I moved her to another nursing home facility after her 2nd surgery since I realized that the negligent care had been the source of her illness where she had been. Even though I asked multiple times if she had MRSA, I wasn’t told the truth until months later, after I had her in another facility.

    Mom was 82 when she fell, and her age was given to me as the reason she became ill. But before her surgery, she was driving her own car, paying her own bills, owned her own house and had gone grocery shopping the day she fell. I know she got this ‘superbug’ at this hospital and it seems clear that it was negligence.

    I hear these stories often around here – – I pray there is legislation that makes hospitals publish the statistics on infections and rates of death…I support anything that can be done to do this.

    I like this site – – but must be honest to say that when I saw Michael Moore being promoted, it put me off. He is in my estimation a left wing nut case with nothing to offer and in fact would do more harm than good. He offers up Cuba as a good example of health care, when I read that it is just the opposite in that country – – people are brought to hospitals in wheel barrows and worse. It would be interesting to now where Michael gets his medical care – – he lives in Manhatten, I understand, and would bet he goes to the best teaching hospitals in NYC…. I am sure he doesn’t go to Canada or Cuba.

    If you want to be taken seriously, take Moore out of this.


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