WHY CAN’T WE HALT DEADLY BACTERIAL INFECTIONS IN NURSING HOMES AND HOSPITALS

In recent years, bacterial infections contracted by weakened individuals in hospital and nursing homes have become more deadly and the numbers have increased significantly. Deaths from infections more than doubled from 1999-2007 to more than 17,000 a year from 7,000 a year according to the Centers for Disease Control and the levels if increasing infections is striking. Over two thirds of the deaths are from a caterium called Clostridium difficile which is usually contracted in nursing homes and hospitals and especially when someone is on antibiotics. This bacteria has morphed and become resistant to the normal antibiotics. The second leading cause is norovirus. Thos one spreads on cruise ships and in prisons, dorms and hospitals by the fecal route (people swallow the germs found in feces and spread by people who don’t wash their hands after using the toilet). Exposure to spores is particularly problematic because spores in a hospital clinic or nursing home can last for weeks or even months outside the body. It takes bleach or other disinfectants to kill these spores. Nearly all C. difficile infections, over 94% come from a health care setting. Patients often carry the infection from one institution to another–from a nursing home to a hospital or in reverse. Hygiene measures are effective but few institutions have put systematic measures in place. Researchers are trying to develop vaccines but systems approaches in hospitals and nursing homes to clean all areas and isolate and treat patients with the bacteria is the only known solution to a massive and growing problem costing the government over $1.5 billion each year.