Sharing patients often means sharing hospital-based infections, she noted. "Our study is focused on trying to quantify how much patient-sharing occurs between acute-care hospitals," Huang said during the teleconference.
For the study, Huang's team looked at almost 240,000 people admitted to Orange County's acute-care hospitals in 2005.
"We found that 22 percent of patients will be rehospitalized within a year of discharge," Huang said. Most are readmitted to different hospitals than the one where they were initially treated. In an average month, each hospital exposed other hospitals to 10 of their patients, she noted.
According to Siegel, the transmission of infections from hospital to hospital is "being overlooked."
"Patients become deposits of bacteria, especially when they go from one facility to the next," he said, adding that it should be assumed that someone coming from another hospital is infected with drug-resistant bacteria.
In fact, routine decontamination of patients -- whether they are known to be carrying dangerous pathogens or not -- should be the status quo, Siegel said. "It has to become standard practice to decontaminate all patients who are in areas of high prevalence of dangerous bacteria," he said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the health-care aspects of MRSA.
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