California sees 'significant' reduction in some health care-associated infections

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California hospitals are making significant progress in reducing some types of infections that patients acquire while receiving medical treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new Healthcare Associated Infections Progress Report.

Between 2011 and 2012, state hospitals reported a significant decrease in central line-associated bloodstream infections. These can occur if a tube - or central line - is inserted incorrectly into a large vein in a patient’s neck or chest. The line can then carry germs into the body, and cause deadly blood infections.

The CDC compared 2012 rates of this type of infection in California, with projected rates based on 2008 national data. It found that there were 2,276 fewer cases – or a 47 percent reduction – than its projections based on the 2008 national data.

Compared with hospitals nationwide, California facilities also did a significantly better job of preventing urinary tract infections, caused by catheters that were inserted incorrectly, not kept clean, or left in a patient for too long, according to the report. The state saw 533 fewer catheter-associated urinary tract infections - or 15 percent fewer - than was projected, based on 2009 data. The state also did well preventing infections associated with colon surgery, the CDC said. 

The report shows that "progress has been made in the effort to eliminate infections that commonly threaten hospital patients, but more work is need to improve patient safety," Lynn Johnson, chief of the Healthcare-Associated Infections Program at the California Department of Public Health, said in an e-mail.

One way to further reduce healthcare-associated infections is to ensure that hospital staff members always comply with a set of measures, including washing hands, wearing gloves and masks, and thoroughly cleaning surgery sites, said Dr. Rekha Murthy, medical director of hospital epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles.

This approach reduces the risk of infection, "but translating that in a very busy and complex hospital environment, where you try to achieve 100 percent compliance with them all of the time, is a continued challenge," Murthy said. "But we’re making great progress."



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