There will be serious increases in drug-resistant infections and in Clostridium difficile infections unless there are immediate, nationwide improvements in infection control and antibiotic prescribing, according to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, mathematical models created by the CDC show, if local healthcare facilities and health departments coordinate their efforts and work together, up to 70% of life-threatening antibiotic-resistant infections could be prevented over 5 years. The CDC estimates that national infection control and antibiotic stewardship efforts could prevent 619,000 antibiotic-resistant and C. difficile infections and save 37,000 lives over 5 years.
Antibiotic-resistant germs cause more than 2 million illnesses and at least 23,000 deaths each year in the United States. C. dificile, a serious and sometimes deadly intestinal infection causes an estimated 15,000 deaths a year.
The CDC is recommending that public health departments track and alert healthcare facilities about drug-resistant germ outbreaks in their area. Healthcare facilities must work together and with health authorities to stop the spread of antibiotic-resistant germs and C. difficile between facilities.
"We can dramatically reduce these infections if healthcare facilities, nursing homes, and public health departments work together to improve antibiotic use and infection control so patients are protected, "said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., in a statement.
C. difficile and drug-resistant bacteria spread inside and between healthcare facilities when good infection control procedures are not in place and when patients are transferred from one facility to another.
"Patients and their families may wonder how they can help stop the spread of infections," says Michael Bell, M.D., deputy director of CDC's Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. "When receiving health care, tell your doctor if you have been hospitalized in another facility or country, wash your hands often, and always insist that everyone have clean hands before touching you. Ask your health care providers what they and the health care facility in your area do to coordinate with others to protect you and your family from an antibiotic-resistant or C. difficile infection."