According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it appears that more people in the United State now die from Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) than from Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). MRSA, which is typically hospital acquired, or nosocomial, was responsible for an estimated 94,000 life-threatening infections and 18,650 deaths in 2005, while, in that same year, approximately 16,000 deaths were attributable to AIDS. The report is set forth in the October 17, 2007 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The national estimate is more than double the invasive MRSA prevalence reported by CDC researchers five years earlier, says researcher R. Monina Klevens, DDS, MPH. "MRSA infections,” according to Dr. Klevens, “are an important public health problem that can no longer be ignored. We need to put this higher on our list of priorities."
MRSA is well known as a "superbug" because it is resistant to many antibiotics. Infection is seen most often in patients who have compromised immune systems or have undergone invasive medical procedures. MRSA is a leading cause of sepsis, a potentially life-threatening bloodstream infection, surgical site infections, and pneumonia. It has been clear for some time that MRSA was a growing problem in the nation’s hospitals and other health care settings, but the extent of the problem at the national level has not been well known.
Among the highlights from the newly published study are the following:
- 85% of invasive MRSA infections could be traced to a hospital stay or some other health care related exposure, two-thirds of which occurred among people who were no longer hospitalized;
- Approximately 15% of invasive infections occurred in people with no known health care risk;
- People over age 65 were four times more likely than the general population to get a MRSA infection;
- Incidence rates among African Americans were twice that of the general population, with the lowest incidence rates among children over the age of 4 and teenagers.
According to Dr. Klevens, hand washing is one of the most important ways to decrease the spread of MRSA in hospitals, but hand washing compliance rates among health care professionals are rarely perfect. Dr. Klevens encourages patients to ensure that everyone with whom they come into contact washes their hands or uses an alcohol hand rub in an effort to minimize their risk of exposure.
Previously on the D.C. Metro Area Medical Malpractice Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:
- Aggressive MRSA protocols found to be effective;
- Higher-than-expected rates of MRSA in U.S. hospitals;
- Contaminated hospital rooms leading to MRSA infections;
- CDC guidelines for containing multi-drug resistant organisms (MROs);
- MRSA in emergency rooms.
For important information about MRSA, please visit the JAMA Patient Page and CDC Features regarding MRSA in school communities.