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CDC Calls for Vigilance as Staph Infections Rise

In a new Vital Signs report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls on health care providers to increase prevention efforts for Staphylococcus aureus (staph) infections. Bloodstream staph infected more than 119,000 people and caused 20,000 deaths in 2017, the CDC reports.

The germ comes in two variants: methicillin-resistant staph (MRSA) and methicillin-susceptible staph (MSSA). People have higher risk for staph infection when they have surgery, stay in health care facilities, have medical devices in their body, inject drugs, or come in close contact with someone who has staph. If the germ enters the bloodstream, staph can cause serious infections that lead to sepsis or death.

While hospital-onset MRSA infections dropped by approximately 17 percent each year between 2005 and 2012, progress since has slowed. The agency also notes that MRSA infections increased by almost 4 percent outside of health care settings from 2012 to 2017; this increase might be associated with the opioid crisis. In 2016, 9 percent of all serious staph infections (including MRSA) happened in people who inject drugs, an increase from 4 percent in 2011.

To prevent staph infections, CDC urges health care providers to:

  • follow agency recommendations for preventing device- and procedure-related infections;
  • use Contact Precautions by wearing gloves and gowns for resistant infections;
  • screen high-risk patients and decolonize germs during high-risk periods, such as intensive care unit stays, surgery, or device use;
  • treat infections appropriately and rapidly if they occur; and
  • educate patients about infection prevention and early signs of sepsis.

The agency has created a bloodstream staph infection framework for acute care hospitals and is forming collaboratives to help facilities with high rates of MRSA infections. CDC also will hold a virtual Town Hall March 12, at 2 pm ET, featuring perspectives from a health department and two health systems; and a Facebook Live event with agency experts on March 26, with the time to be announced.

Contact Senior Director of Policy Erin O’Malley at or 202.585.0127 with questions.

About the Author

Emily Schweich is a communications manager at America's Essential Hospitals.

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