DHHS Releases Annual Report Regarding Healthcare-Associated Infections

Raleigh, N.C.

The North Carolina Division of Public Health has released its annual report describing healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) in North Carolina hospitals. HAIs are infections that patients get in a healthcare setting while receiving treatment for other conditions. This 2013 annual report shows that progress has been made, but more work is needed to protect patients from these infections.

"North Carolina hospitals have made tremendous efforts to protect their patients, but approximately 1 in 25 hospital patients still contracts a healthcare-associated infection each year," said Zack Moore, Medical Epidemiologist with DHHS' Division of Public Health. "These reports not only provide important information for patients and doctors, they also help raise awareness of these infections and increase the focus on infection control and prevention."

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The 2013 annual report provides updated state-level and hospital-specific information for consumers and healthcare providers about three of the most common healthcare-associated infections: Bloodstream infections associated with central venous catheters; urinary tract infections associated with bladder catheters; and surgical site infections. These infections have been tracked and publicly reported in North Carolina since 2012.

Information on two other important healthcare-associated infections is also included for the first time in this annual report: Bloodstream infections caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (or "MRSA") and infections caused by Clostridium difficile (or "C. diff" ).

MRSA is a bacterium that is resistant to certain antibiotics. In the community, MRSA often causes skin infections. In healthcare facilities, MRSA can cause bloodstream infections and other serious problems. Overall, MRSA causes approximately 11,000 deaths nationally every year. Data in the annual report show that the number of MRSA bloodstream infections in North Carolina hospitals during 2013 was similar to the number predicted based on a national baseline.

C. diff is a bacterium that causes inflammation of the colon, known as colitis. Diarrhea and fever are the most common symptoms. C. diff infections are linked to 14,000 deaths nationally every year. Although most C. diff infections are healthcare-associated, infections have also been reported in people with no recent exposure to healthcare settings, often as a complication from taking antibiotics. Data in the annual report show that the number of C. diff infections in North Carolina hospitals during 2013 was significantly lower than the number predicted based on a national baseline.

"The rate of MRSA bloodstream infections in hospitals has been falling over the past decade, while the number of C. diff infections is climbing," Moore said. "Both are serious threats to patient health and need to be monitored closely by the healthcare community."

The prevention of healthcare-associated infections is a public health priority in North Carolina and is a collaborative effort among the healthcare and public health communities. The healthcare-associated infection reports are an important product of this collaboration.

Contact: news@dhhs.nc.gov