Norovirus is the leading cause of infection outbreaks in US hospitals

Norovirus, a pathogen that often causes food poisoning and gastroenteritis, was responsible for 18.2 percent of all infection outbreaks and 65 percent of ward closures in U.S. hospitals during a two-year period, according to a new study published in the February issue of the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC), the official publication of APIC - the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

A team of researchers from Chartis, Main Line Health System, Lexington Insurance Company, and APIC Consulting Services collected survey responses from 822 APIC members who work in U.S. hospitals regarding outbreak investigations at their institutions during 2008 and 2009. The study was conducted to determine how often outbreak investigations are initiated in U.S. hospitals, as well as the triggers for investigations, types of organisms, and including unit closures.

Thirty-five percent of the 822 hospitals responding had investigated at least one outbreak in the previous two years. Four organisms caused nearly 60 percent of the outbreaks: norovirus (18.2 percent), (17.5 percent), Acinetobacter spp (13.7 percent), and difficile (10.3 percent). These results reflect 386 outbreak investigations reported by 289 hospitals over a 24-month period.

Medical/surgical units were the most common location of outbreak investigations (25.7 percent), followed by surgical units (13.9 percent). Nearly one-third (29.2 percent) of outbreaks were reported in a category that included emergency departments, rehabilitation units, long-term acute care hospitals, psychiatric/behavioral health units, and skilled nursing facilities. According to the results, the average number of confirmed cases per outbreak was 10.1 and the average duration was 58.4 days. Unit closures were reported in 22.6 percent of the cases, causing an average 16.7 bed closures for 8.3 days.

Of reported outbreaks, only 132 (52.2 percent) of investigations were reported to an external agency, with just 71 (28.4 percent) involving assistance in the investigation by an external resource. In most states, reporting to the state health department is required and can provide hospitals with expertise to expedite and expand their outbreak investigations.

"It is clear that outbreaks of healthcare-associated infections occur with some frequency in hospitals as well as nonacute settings," state the authors. "An infection prevention and control program and its staff should be prepared for all aspects of an outbreak investigation through written policies and procedures as well as communication with internal and external partners."

More information: “Frequency of outbreak investigations in U.S. hospitals: Results of a national survey of infection preventionists,” by Emily Rhinehart, Scott Walker, Denise Murphy, Karen O’Reilly, and Patty Leeman, appears in the American Journal of Infection Control, Volume 40, Issue 1 (February 2012).

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

APIC launches first national C. difficile prevalence study

Mar 20, 2008

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) today announced a detailed strategy to combat Clostridium difficile-associated disease (CDAD). The initiative begins with the first national prevalence ...

Recommended for you

Ebola reveals shortcomings of African solidarity

16 hours ago

As Africa's leaders meet in Ethiopia to discuss the Ebola crisis, expectations of firm action will be tempered by criticism over the continent's poor record in the early stages of the epidemic.

Second bird flu case confirmed in Canada

Jan 30, 2015

The husband of a Canadian who was diagnosed earlier this week with bird flu after returning from a trip to China has also tested positive for the virus, health officials said Friday.

What exactly is coronavirus?

Jan 30, 2015

The conflicts in Syria and Iraq are straining public health systems and public health efforts meant to prevent and detect the spread of infectious diseases. This is generating a "perfect storm" of conditions for outbreaks. Among the infections raising concern is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, caused by a type of coronavirus, which emerged in 2012. ...

Scientists find Ebola virus is mutating

Jan 30, 2015

(Medical Xpress)—Researchers working at Institut Pasteur in France have found that the Ebola virus is mutating "a lot" causing concern in the African countries where the virus has killed over eight thous ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.