According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2 million people annually are infected with drug-resistant germs annually and of those, about 23,000 die of infections. Our Tuscaloosa medical malpractice attorneys know that in many of these cases, the infection was picked up at a hospital or other clinical care setting.
What’s even more upsetting is the fact that, for the most part, these infections are preventable when hospital staffers follow strict sterilization guidelines. When they don’t, the germs can spread rapidly from one patient to the next. With many individuals who are in the hospital already coping with a weakened immune system, such an infection can prove deadly.
What’s also amplifying the problem is the over-prescription of antibiotics. Although doctors for decades have been warned that about half of all antibiotic prescriptions aren’t necessary, the proliferation of these drugs has resulted in mutations in the germs that are making them especially resistant to treatment.
The American Medical Association reports that there is some positive news: incidents of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) were down by about 30,000 from 2005 to 2011. However, the fierce emergence of a strain of stomach germs known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), as well as drug-resistant gonorrhea, have proven tough for health professionals to battle. The latter two strains have been labeled by the CDC’s Office of Antimicrobial Resistance as “urgent.”
Without the development of new antibiotics still on the horizon, health care professionals are left with few treatment options for patients who are sickened. In many cases, doctors end up turning to older drugs that may be more toxic or a combination of other antibiotics that could end up causing serious and possibly debilitating side effects.
CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden was quoted as saying that we are rapidly approaching a “post-antibiotic era.” For some types of infections, he said, we have already reached this point.
One of the most common in hospitals is know as C. difficile, which causes incessant diarrhea. The latest form of treatment involves a transplant of good bacteria, as opposed to antibiotics.
Because bacteria adapts too quickly to antibiotics in any given population, the problem isn’t going to completely be eradicated until doctors at hospitals, nursing homes, urgent care centers and dialysis clinics stop over-prescribing them.
However equally important is prevention of infection in the first place. That involves development of effective sterilization policies and procedures at health care provider facilities that are strictly enforced.
Recently, the Health and Human Services Department enacted some initiatives that will serve to penalize hospitals that have not done enough to curb the spread of infections. More stringent measures are undoubtedly needed.
In the meantime, those who have suffered serious consequences as a result of a hospital-acquired infection in Alabama may have a case for a successful medical malpractice claim. If you or a loved one have suffered from a hospital-acquired infection, please give us a call here a Cross and Smith, LLC to schedule an appointment to discuss your potential claim.
23,000 killed by superbugs in US each year, CDC says, Sept. 16, 2013, By Maggie Fox, NBC News