Infection Control Saves Lives and Costs
NEW YORK, March 8 /CNW/ - "Hospital infections affect two million
Americans every year, costing 100,000 lives and adding $30.5 billion to the
nation's healthcare tab," said Betsy McCaughey, Ph.D., founder and chairman of
the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths (RID). "This issue is especially
critical for New York right now," she said, because infection rates of New
York hospitals will be made public beginning in 2008.
Dr. McCaughey, Legionella expert Janet E. Stout, Ph.D., University of
Pittsburgh, and Bruce Farber, M.D., Chief of Infectious Diseases at North
Shore University Hospital, N.Y., met with New York-area hospital executives
and infection control professionals today to discuss the latest medical and
economic data on infections acquired in the healthcare setting and provide
solutions. The seminar, held at the Hilton in Melville, New York, was
sponsored by RID and the North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System
with an educational grant from Pall Corporation.
Maureen and Marie Daly of Brooklyn, who lost their mother, Johanna, to a
hospital infection in 2004, lent a personal perspective to the clinical
discussion. Johanna Daly was a healthy, active 63-year-old when she entered
the hospital for repair of a fractured shoulder. Within a few days of her
discharge she had a raging fever and died three months later from a severe
infection caused by a combination of deadly bacteria. Dedicating herself to
the cause of reducing hospital infection, Maureen Daly gave up her business
and joined RID full-time. "It means everything to me to be able to help
prevent this from happening to others," she said.
Dr. Stout, a Microbiologist at the University of Pittsburgh Department of
Civil and Environmental Engineering, educated seminar attendees about a less
well-known, but no less deadly, source of infection in healthcare settings.
Conveying "Lessons Learned from Legionella," she took participants on a guided
tour of hospital water systems - faucets and showers, ice machines, cooling
towers, humidifiers and even decorative fountains, where biofilm, Legionella
and other deadly microorganisms thrive.
"If you have it in your water, you're going to have it in your patients,"
she warned. "It's not even necessary for vulnerable patients to come into
direct contact with water," she said. "They can become infected just by
breathing the aerosols, which take the form of steam or mist from hospital
showers and sinks."
While Legionnaires' disease has been the subject of considerable media
attention due to several recent outbreaks across the country, Dr. Stout
highlighted other waterborne pathogens - bacteria and fungi - that can be as
dangerous to patients, including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Mycobacterium avium
and Aspergillus fumigatus.
Infectious disease specialist and seminar moderator Joseph S. Cervia,
M.D., Clinical Professor of Medicine & Pediatrics, Albert Einstein College of
Medicine, and Medical Director, Pall Corporation, explained why disinfection
is so difficult. "The problem of eradicating waterborne microbes from hospital
water systems so that patients are not exposed to them is compounded by the
growing threat posed by amoebae that 'harbor' the microbes and protect them
from physical and chemical disinfection technologies," he said. "The microbes
survive and multiply inside the amoebae and are released into hospital water
systems, where they can become a source of serious infection."
Infection Control Can Make the Difference
Dr. McCaughey, a leading national figure in infection prevention and
former Lt. Governor of New York, illustrated the cost-effectiveness of
infection control. Research shows that eliminating infections can result in a
20-to-1 payback for the hospital within the first year alone, with no or
minimal capital outlay. "Good infection control can make the difference
between profitability and loss for an individual hospital," she said.
"Hospitals can ill afford outbreaks," said Dr. Stout, underscoring the
financial impact. "A single outbreak of Legionnaires' disease can cost
anywhere from $880,000 to $1,630,000, not to mention the cost to a hospital's
reputation." Dr. Stout reviewed state-of-the-art solutions for reducing
Legionella and other waterborne microorganisms, noting that no single systemic
disinfection technology can completely and permanently eliminate these
pathogens from hospital water systems. "Protection for at-risk patients also
requires point-of-use filtration technology," she said.
Experts Share Solutions, Success Stories
Dr. McCaughey focused on cost-effective measures to curb the alarming
rise in methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), one of the
deadliest germs responsible for hospital infection and one of the hardest to
treat. She presented success stories from hospitals in Virginia, Pennsylvania
and Iowa that realized significant reductions in infection rates through
simple screening programs and rigorous enforcement of staff and equipment
There is no more timely an issue than the importance of implementing
effective infection controls, according to Dr. McCaughey, because of the
larger impact that it can have on emerging threats such as bioterror and bird
flu. "In the event of a major outbreak, proper procedures, rigorously
followed, can help reduce infection in first responders, healthcare workers
and patients," she said.
"Minimizing the risk of hospital-associated infections (HAIs) is the
highest priority of the North Shore-LIJ Health System," said Dr. Farber. "The
epidemiology and virulence of HAIs change over time, so it is imperative that
healthcare providers have control strategies in place to stay ahead of the
Dr. Farber, who advises on infectious disease issues throughout the North
Shore-LIJ system, added that many infections are the product of novel
therapies that are being used to treat diseases that in the past were not
amenable to therapy. The North Shore-LIJ Health System has implemented a
number of programs to minimize risks, in addition to a myriad of standard
policies and procedures that are already in place to accomplish this goal.
These include participation in the nationwide infection awareness and
education campaign being led by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement
(IHI); a control program for addressing so-called staph or MRSA infections,
including the use of high tech screening of high-risk patients; disinfection,
notification and isolation techniques to control Clostridium difficile, a
bacterium that can cause serious bowel problems; employee education on hand
hygiene and disinfection; surgeon-specific infection rate monitoring; and
computer tracking of HAIs.
The Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths (www.hospitalinfection.org) is a
nonprofit educational organization dedicated to providing hospital
administrators, caregivers, insurers, and patients with the information they
need to stop hospital infections.
About North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System
The nation's third largest, non-profit, secular healthcare system, the
North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System (www.northshorelij.com) cares for
people of all ages throughout Long Island, Queens and Staten Island - a
service area encompassing more than five million people. The health system
includes 15 hospitals, four long-term care facilities, a medical research
institute, four trauma centers, five home health agencies and dozens of
out-patient centers. North Shore-LIJ facilities house more than 6,000 beds,
and are staffed by over 8,000 physicians, 10,500 nurses and a total workforce
of about 37,500 - the largest employer on Long Island and the ninth largest in
New York City. In recognition of its efforts to reduce hospital-acquired
infections, the North Shore-LIJ Health System was awarded the 2006 Pinnacle
Award by the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS).
About Pall Corporation
Pall Corporation (NYSE: PLL) is the global leader in the rapidly growing
field of filtration, separation and purification. Pall is organized into two
businesses: Life Sciences and Industrial. These businesses provide
leading-edge products to meet the demanding needs of customers in
biotechnology, pharmaceutical, transfusion medicine, energy, electronics,
municipal and industrial water purification, aerospace, transportation and
broad industrial markets. Total revenues for fiscal year 2006 were $2.0
billion. The Company headquarters is in East Hills, New York with extensive
operations throughout the world. For more information visit Pall at
-- Photos of biofilm, pathogens and seminar speakers plus additional
information about hospital infection can be found at
-- Interviews with speakers and experts are available upon request
-- TV/video footage of waterborne pathogens in hospitals is also
available upon request.
-- There is a media briefing at 12:30pm today. Call Jennifer Corrigan or
Mark Coyle for the call-in information.
For further information:
For further information: Jennifer Corrigan, 732-382-8898
Jenn.Corrigan@comcast.net or Mark Coyle, 571-276-1893 firstname.lastname@example.org