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CDC Data Flawed, Regulations Too Lax?

In taking a strong stance with the CDC through an April 15th Commentary in The Washington Times before her testimony to Congress, Betsy McCaughey, Chairman of The Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths (RID), writes:

"Tomorrow Congress will hold hearings on whether the federal government is doing enough to prevent deadly hospital infection. The answer is 'no.' The biggest culprit is the CDC. The CDC claims 1.7 million people contract infections in U.S. hospitals each year. The truth is several times that number."

MCaughey then discusses the growing numbers of MRSA and how that alone skews the CDC's numbers:

One of the fastest growing infections is "Mersa" or MRSA, which stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a superbug that doesn't respond to most antibiotics. In 1993, there were fewer than 2,000 MRSA infections in U.S. hospitals. By 2005, the figure had shot up to 368,000 according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. By June, 2007, 2.4 percent of all patients had MRSA hospital infections, according to the largest-ever study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control. That would mean 880,000 victims a year.

That's from one superbug. Imagine the number of infections from bacteria of all kinds, including such killers as VRE (vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus) and C. diff (Clostridium difficile). Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently told Congress that MRSA accounts for only 8 percent of hospital infections.

These new facts discredit the CDC's official 1.7 million estimate. CDC spokeswoman Nicole Coffin admits "the number isn't perfect." In fact, it is an irresponsible guesstimate based on a sliver of 6-year-old (2002) data. The CDC researchers who came up with it complained that not having actual data 'complicated the problem.'

Numbers matter. Health conditions that affect the largest number of people generally command more research dollars and public attention."

McCaughey's column is compelling and points a very strong finger at the CDC to (1) provide up-to-date, accurate data on this (preventable!) epidemic and (2) increase the protocols to be in line with those of other countries who have eradicated the problem (as Europe has with MRSA screening). She also draws correlations to other government regulators, noting:

"It is common for government regulators to become soft on the industry they are supposed to regulate. A coziness develops. Federal Aviation Administration inspectors failed to insist on timely electrical systems inspections, say news reports. The same may be true at the CDC, where government administrators spend too much time listening to hospital executives and not enough time with grieving families."

The current statistics on hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) are already mind-numbing...but to think that there are far higher, and far more that we could be doing makes McCaughey's voice one of the most important in the fight on preventable medical errors.

 Full piece located here. A transcript of McCaughey's address to Congress can be downloaded here (PDF).

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Comments

AZReam

Scary stuff - and there are so many inexpensive pieces of equipment combined with simple procedures which can help to prevent all this.

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