Health officials rethinking preventative measures to reduce hospital-acquired infections

After another outbreak at a Detroit-area hospital, state health officials are rethinking the way they prevent hospitalizations among hospitalized patients.

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is conducting a multi-agency “collaborative review” with officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Health and Human Services, Wayne County, the City of Detroit, Wayne County Court and the Detroit Fire Department.

The patients tested positive for a form of enterovirus, which causes diarrhea, vomiting and breathing problems, but there are no reports of death.

Officials are looking into whether the outbreak is related to the spread of hospital-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which causes very serious infections, or is because of a new strain of enterovirus, which can lead to more common respiratory illness.

“While it is extremely uncommon to have an outbreak of enterovirus this severe, the fact that we have had four in the past month is a concerning sign for the public health community,” said Dr. William Schaffner, MDCH commissioner. “We are taking the outbreak very seriously and are closely monitoring hospital discharge patients so we know who needs care, where they are being cared for and where they need to go next.”

The MDCH is using on-site reviews and the Michigan Health and Hospital Association nurse checklist to assess, identify and improve procedures. It is also helping hospitals take corrective action.

Meanwhile, the University of Michigan continues to see outbreaks that could cause hospitalization, particularly in recent weeks, according to Dr. Richard Wender, director of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

“The recent outbreaks were in children and young adults, and the majority were hospitalized. So there’s been a lot of attention paid to this area,” he said.

Wender called it “extraordinary” that patients were admitting to hospitals with these conditions, which can make hospitalizations more likely to be fatal.

Michigan State University scientists have discovered some new enterovirus strains. Researchers from the Division of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition found three previously unknown specimens of enterovirus 68.

“These new strains suggest that enteroviruses are very difficult to catch, even for people who are good at hygiene, and that they pose a health risk to patients and health care providers alike,” said Jason Dee, a postdoctoral fellow at MSU.

The findings are consistent with “an emerging consensus that the vast majority of hospital acquired enterovirus infections are ‘safe’ in most hospitals, and therefore transmission to patients in these settings is rare,” according to a release from MSU.

“If you’re a hospital staff member and know that you’re probably in one of the transmission zones, you would probably want to make sure you’re washing your hands frequently,” Wender said.

Leave a Comment