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Staph Infections Still Major Health Risk, Killed Nearly 20,000 In 2017: CDC

Federal health officials warn that serious staph infections are on the rise, after more than a decade of declining cases, following efforts to reduce and eliminate the risk of infections in hospitals and medical facilities.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a warning Tuesday in its latest Vital Signs report, indicating staph infections are on the rise again, with certain types of staph infections increasing each year since 2012. The report calls for increased prevention methods for staphylococcus aureus infections.

Staphylococcus aureus is a type of bacteria found on human skin and on surfaces that touch human skin. While it doesn’t always cause harm, it can get into the bloodstream and cause serious infection and lead to sepsis, which can be deadly. There are several kinds of staph infections, including methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and methicillin-susceptible staphylococcus aureus (MSSA).

The data from the new report, which included surveillance statistics from more than 400 acute care hospitals, indicated there was a 17% decrease in staph infections from 2005 to 2017. However, from 2012 to 2017, there was an increase in methicillin-susceptible staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) each year. More than 119,000 bloodstream staphylococcus aureus infections occurred in 2017, resulting in nearly 20,000 deaths, according to the report.

Hospital infection control efforts helped reduce the rates of staph infections, the researchers found. However, now progress in reducing staph infection rates is slowing. CDC experts said hospitals must focus on prevention methods again for both healthcare providers and patients to combat the rising infection rates.

The risk of staph infections is highest among people who inject drugs, who have hospital stays or undergo surgery, have medical devices implanted, or who come in contact with someone with staph infections.

According to the findings, nearly nine percent of serious staph infections in 2016 occurred among people who injected drugs. The report recommends doctors who see recurring staph infections consider the possibility of injection drug use and connect patients with drug treatment services.

Prevention methods focus on proper hygiene, including hand washing and keeping skin clean. It is also essential to keep wounds covered with bandages to prevent infection and avoid sharing personal items that touch the skin, like razors, towels, and needles. Each of these steps are key to preventing staph infections, experts say.

The CDC recommends hospitals focus on emphasizing healthcare workers use gloves during exams and procedures and highlight frequent hand washing. Healthcare workers can also remain aware of staph infection rates in their hospital and focus on CDC prevention recommendations.

Some studies have shown decolonization efforts, which include special bathing techniques with antibacterial soap after hospital procedures, can be successful in reducing staph infections.

“Staph infections are a serious threat and can be deadly,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a press release. “U.S. hospitals have made significant progress, but this report tells us that all staph infections must remain a prevention priority for healthcare providers.”

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