Noroviruses leading cause of hospital infections

HealthDay News -- Norovirus outbreaks are the leading cause of infection outbreaks in hospitals, particularly in the non-acute care setting, and often lead to unit closure, data published in the American Journal of Infection Control indicate.

"It is clear that outbreaks of health care-associated infections occur with some frequency in hospitals as well as non-acute settings," Emily Rhinehart, RN, MPH, of Chartis Insurance in Atlanta, and colleagues wrote. "Many are in intensive care units and other high-risk patient populations, but, given the frequency of norovirus as a cause of health care-associated outbreaks, our data [...] demonstrate outbreaks may occur in rehabilitation units, long-term care acute units/hospitals and skilled nursing facilities as well as in psychiatric/behavioral health residential settings."

The researchers conducted a two-part electronic survey of infection preventionists to determine the frequency of outbreak investigations in U.S. hospitals over a 24-month period, as well as to collect information on specific investigations, including control measures.

A total of 882 responses were received, which provided data on 386 outbreaks in 289 hospitals throughout the United States. The researchers found that four organisms were responsible for nearly 60% of infectious disease outbreaks: noroviruses accounted for 18% of the outbreaks, Staphylococcus aureus for 17%, Acinetobacter spp for 14% and Clostridium difficile for 10%.

Norovirus outbreaks predominated in behavioral health and rehabilitation/long-term care facilities, whereas bacterial infections caused by the other three organisms were more likely to occur in medical and surgical units. Units in which outbreaks occurred were closed in 22.6% of cases, with norovirus pathogens most often associated with closure.

Rhinehart E et al. Am J Infect Control. 2012. doi:10.1016/j.ajic.2011.10.003.

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