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Government Funds New Ways to Prevent Infections in Nursing Homes and Hospitals

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According to NPR, California and Illinois are working to help stop the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or superbugs, in 50 hospitals and nursing homes throughout the two states. Their method? They use a special soap – chlorhexidine – to more effectively kill the long-lasting germs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stepped in with $8 million to aid in the states’ efforts.

According to the CDC, nearly 2 million people get infected each year with superbugs, and roughly 23,000 die annually. These infections run rampant throughout health care facilities. The elderly are particularly susceptible to diseases, and the nursing homes in which they reside are a breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In fact, one study found that approximately 15 percent of patients in the hospital and 65 percent of nursing home residents carry organisms that are drug-resistant. While these numbers are alarming, the good news is not every carrier will become infected, Dr. Susan Huang told NPR.

Some of the most common, quick-spreading superbugs hospital and nursing home residents are exposed to include MRSA (Staphylococcus aureus) and CRE (Enterobacteriaceae). MRSA is a common infection that is resistant to methicillin. CRE often encompasses E.Coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae germs when they no longer respond to antibiotics called carbapenems. On average, 600 people die a year from CRE bacteria, the CDC reported.

Chlorhexidine: The Soap Used to Reduce the Risk of Infection

Chlorhexidine, the unique soap that is used in hospitals and nursing homes in Chicago and California to help contain bacteria like MRSA and CRE, is an antimicrobial soap. It has been extensively used in hospital intensive care units, and it is now recommended for bathing nursing home patients, as studies have shown using chlorhexidine while bathing can help prevent infection.

It may also be purchased over the counter for everyday use to reduce the risk of infection. Though it’s rare, the FDA reported severe allergic reactions to the soap in 2017.

Nursing homes in Chicago have started using chlorhexidine daily to bathe residents, in addition to promoting hand-washing and screening patients for superbugs upon their admission to the facility. This effort for infection prevention is a new trend among select nursing homes. A Kaiser Health News analysis found that over a four-year period, nearly three-quarters of nursing homes received citations for their poor infection control, but almost none of them were fined.

Preliminary Results

While the results from the Chicago study are not yet in, California’s results are promising. There was a “25 percent decline in drug-resistant organisms in nursing home residents, 34 percent in patients of long-term acute care hospitals and 9 percent in traditional hospital patients,” NPR reported. In addition, CRE bacteria declined significantly for the population that was using chlorhexidine.

These encouraging results provide a good base protocol that long-term care facilities across the nation could start following as well. As infections are such a serious problem among the nursing home population in particular, any means to reduce the number of affected individuals should be taken seriously.

We are encouraged by these results and hope to see chlorhexidine used more frequnelty among all nursing homes in the coming months and years to protect residents from highly infectious diseases and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In the meantime, it is still important to be vigilant with hygiene and work diligently to protect yourself and loved ones from these contagious diseases.

Jehl Law Group Can Help Families Affected by Infectious Diseases

If you or a loved is currently suffering or has passed away as a result of an infectious disease that was not properly prevented, you may be entitled to compensation. Nursing home abuse and neglect can take many different forms, and failing to take proper precautions and protect residents is a serious fault. We have years of experience helping victims of long-term care abuse and neglect, and we would be happy to do the same for you, too. Don’t wait to get help. Call us today at (901) 322-4232 for a free, confidential consultation.