Norovirus causes most hospital outbreaks

Feb. 3, 2012 at 9:23 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Norovirus, a pathogen that often causes food poisoning and gastroenteritis, is the leading cause of infectious outbreaks in U.S. hospitals, researchers said.

A team of researchers from Chartis Insurance, Main Line Health System, Lexington Insurance Company and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology Consulting Services, collected survey responses from 822 the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology members who work in U.S. hospitals.

The study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control, found 35 percent of the 822 hospitals that responded had investigated at least one outbreak in the previous two years with 18 percent of the outbreaks were norovirus.

Seventeen percent of the outbreaks were Staphylococcus aureus, 14 percent were Acinetobacter spp and 10 percent were Clostridium difficile, the study said.

Medical/surgical units were the most common location of outbreak investigations at 25.7 percent, followed by surgical units at 13.9 percent, the researchers said.

Nearly one-third of the 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, the study said.

"It is clear that outbreaks of healthcare-associated infections occur with some frequency in hospitals as well as non-acute settings," the study authors said in a statement. "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."

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