Epidemic of deaths from hospital super-bugs going unreported

Health authorities are raising the alarm about antibiotic-resistant "super-bugs" that have invaded American hospitals, killing up to 175,000 patients a year.

It may be even worse because death certificates often don't mention the killer infections, making the tracking of these super-bugs nearly impossible.

LA Times:

One reason doctors are reluctant to report in public records that patients have died from hospital-acquired infections, experts say, is the possibility of malpractice lawsuits.

CDC officials warned in October that they had discovered that some hospitals had tried to stop their infection-control staff from reporting certain types of hospital-acquired infections to a national database as required.

In a 2010 survey published in a CDC medical journal, 49% of New York City medical residents said they had knowingly reported an inaccurate cause of death on a certificate.

Nile Moss, 15, unexpectedly died a couple days after having an MRI at Children’s Hospital of Orange County in Orange in 2006.

An autopsy showed that he died from a rare superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, which the CDC says is a leading cause of healthcare associated infections.

His parents say they believe the pad patients lay on in the MRI machine was contaminated with the bacteria. The teen was hit with flu-like symptoms soon after having the outpatient test. He was hospitalized after his fever reached 104 degrees and he struggled to breathe.

The doctor did not list the bacteria on Nile’s death certificate. Instead he wrote the teen had died from “adult respiratory distress syndrome.” Contributing causes, the doctor wrote, were septic shock and pneumonia.

“Doctors have the ability to write whatever they want,” said Nile’s mother, Carole Moss, one of the people who attended the CDC meeting on inaccurate death certificates. “Many people are angered by this. They cause the harm and then cover it up.”

A look at the raw numbers should make you think twice of ever going near a hospital:

The CDC estimates that 75,000 Americans with hospital-acquired infections die during their hospitalizations each year. Since California provides between 10% and 12% of the nation’s hospital care, state officials used the agency’s analysis to estimate that 7,500 to 9,000 Californians die each year from infections from hospital germs.

But these numbers may be underestimated, perhaps by a great degree, experts say.

“It’s fair to challenge that number,” the CDC’s Richards said of the estimate of 75,000 deaths.

Sepsis can cause death when an infection spreads to the blood, triggering an inflammatory response that damages the body’s organs and causes them to fail.

In March, the CDC estimated that the actual number of deaths from sepsis were as much as 140% higher than those recorded on death certificates, or as many as 381,000 deaths a year. According to another study, 37% of hospitalizations for sepsis were caused by infections caught in hospitals or other health facilities like nursing homes.

That suggests that as many as 140,000 Americans are dying each year from healthcare-acquired sepsis, just one subgroup of the infections.

The super-bugs were created largely because few people prescribed antibiotics will take the entire regimen, stopping treatment when they feel better.  This leaves some bugs alive and resistant to the antibiotic.  Over the decades, more and more super-bugs have appeared as scientists and pharmaceutical companies are scrambling to stay ahead in this life-or-death arms race.

The laws on reporting super-bug infections are there; they just aren't being enforced.  Health authorities should immediately begin cracking down on facilties that shade the truth to avoid lawsuits to get a better handle on where the problems are.

Health authorities are raising the alarm about antibiotic-resistant "super-bugs" that have invaded American hospitals, killing up to 175,000 patients a year.

It may be even worse because death certificates often don't mention the killer infections, making the tracking of these super-bugs nearly impossible.

LA Times:

One reason doctors are reluctant to report in public records that patients have died from hospital-acquired infections, experts say, is the possibility of malpractice lawsuits.

CDC officials warned in October that they had discovered that some hospitals had tried to stop their infection-control staff from reporting certain types of hospital-acquired infections to a national database as required.

In a 2010 survey published in a CDC medical journal, 49% of New York City medical residents said they had knowingly reported an inaccurate cause of death on a certificate.

Nile Moss, 15, unexpectedly died a couple days after having an MRI at Children’s Hospital of Orange County in Orange in 2006.

An autopsy showed that he died from a rare superbug, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, which the CDC says is a leading cause of healthcare associated infections.

His parents say they believe the pad patients lay on in the MRI machine was contaminated with the bacteria. The teen was hit with flu-like symptoms soon after having the outpatient test. He was hospitalized after his fever reached 104 degrees and he struggled to breathe.

The doctor did not list the bacteria on Nile’s death certificate. Instead he wrote the teen had died from “adult respiratory distress syndrome.” Contributing causes, the doctor wrote, were septic shock and pneumonia.

“Doctors have the ability to write whatever they want,” said Nile’s mother, Carole Moss, one of the people who attended the CDC meeting on inaccurate death certificates. “Many people are angered by this. They cause the harm and then cover it up.”

A look at the raw numbers should make you think twice of ever going near a hospital:

The CDC estimates that 75,000 Americans with hospital-acquired infections die during their hospitalizations each year. Since California provides between 10% and 12% of the nation’s hospital care, state officials used the agency’s analysis to estimate that 7,500 to 9,000 Californians die each year from infections from hospital germs.

But these numbers may be underestimated, perhaps by a great degree, experts say.

“It’s fair to challenge that number,” the CDC’s Richards said of the estimate of 75,000 deaths.

Sepsis can cause death when an infection spreads to the blood, triggering an inflammatory response that damages the body’s organs and causes them to fail.

In March, the CDC estimated that the actual number of deaths from sepsis were as much as 140% higher than those recorded on death certificates, or as many as 381,000 deaths a year. According to another study, 37% of hospitalizations for sepsis were caused by infections caught in hospitals or other health facilities like nursing homes.

That suggests that as many as 140,000 Americans are dying each year from healthcare-acquired sepsis, just one subgroup of the infections.

The super-bugs were created largely because few people prescribed antibiotics will take the entire regimen, stopping treatment when they feel better.  This leaves some bugs alive and resistant to the antibiotic.  Over the decades, more and more super-bugs have appeared as scientists and pharmaceutical companies are scrambling to stay ahead in this life-or-death arms race.

The laws on reporting super-bug infections are there; they just aren't being enforced.  Health authorities should immediately begin cracking down on facilties that shade the truth to avoid lawsuits to get a better handle on where the problems are.