Belsky Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC A Personal Injury & Workers’ Compensation Law Firm

Study finds superbug risk is alive and well in hospital ICUs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as one out of every 25 patients are affected by a hospital-acquired infection -- or HAI -- on any given day here in the U.S. with nearly half of these infection cases originating in the intensive care unit.

In light of these unnerving numbers and the annual toll taken by HAIs like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the CDC funded a study designed to uncover more about the so-called "triangle of transmission" in hospital settings, meaning how HAIs are spread among patients, nurses and the environment. The results of this study, which were equal parts illuminating and disturbing, were presented at a national conference held just last week. 

As part of the study, the researchers identified 67 ICU patients who were cared for by 40 different nurses during three different 12-hour shifts with each nurse caring for at least two patients and changing their scrubs prior to the start of each shift. Cultures were then taken were taken twice per day from patients, their assigned rooms and the nurses' scrubs.

After examining the cultures, the researchers determined the following:

  • There were 22 transmissions of the same bacteria strain.
  • Of the 22 transmissions, ten were from patient to their room, six were from patient to nurse, and six were from room to nurse.
  • There were five different strains of bacteria transmitted, including MRSA
  • The areas that were most likely to be contaminated with bacteria included the pockets of nurses' scrubs and patient bedrails.

As to what can -- and should be -- done to prevent this type of transmission of bacteria, the researchers made three suggestions: enhance cleaning of patient rooms (particularly after discharge), use of gloves and disposable gowns, and washing of hands after all patient encounters.

More than anything, this study shows that while we've made progress in recognizing the dangers posed by HAIs, we still have a long way to go in combating their spread.

If you've suffered serious health complications because of an infection acquired while staying in the hospital or lost a loved one to what you believe was medical negligence, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your options for seeking justice.

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