Study Shows Rise In Staph Among Hospitalized Patients

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Staph infections in hospitals

According to a recent study of more than 45 million hospital discharge records, staph infections among hospitalized patients are on the rise.

The study, conducted by Gary Noskin, MD, infectious disease specialist and associate chief medical officer at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, also revealed that the increase in staph infections is resulting in millions of dollars of excess healthcare costs due to longer hospitalizations.

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Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as staph, is potentially serious bacteria that can cause a range of illnesses from mild skin infections to life-threatening blood stream infections. According to the study, the occurrence of staph increased among all hospitalized patients at a rate of 7.1 percent annually from 1998 to 2003. Among surgical patients, the rate was even higher, at 7.9 percent, and among orthopedic patients specifically, a staggering 9.3 percent.

"These data send a very important message to hospitals and healthcare institutions about the correlations between infection control and healthcare costs," said Dr. Noskin. "Identifying the bacteria is crucial to reducing its spread, and if we can prevent these infections from occurring, we can undoubtedly improve patient outcomes and reduce hospital visits, which ultimately reduce cost."

Dr. Noskin said Northwestern Memorial employs a comprehensive approach to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of these infections. For example, the hospital appropriately administers antibiotics at optimal times prior to surgery to prevent surgical site infections. The hospital also is the site of other ongoing research to discover faster methods for identifying staph bacteria and preventing them from developing into infections.

Other standard precautions to reduce the occurrence of staph infections include proper hand-washing and requiring employees to wear gloves to decrease the spread of bacteria. These study results were announced over the weekend at the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) annual meeting.

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