Infection Clusters in Chemo Clinics 'Tip of the Iceberg,' Says CDC

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , October 27, 2011

Among those hospitalized, approximately 1 in 14 (or 4,100) will die of the infection. It's hard to know how many of those deaths were the result of lax infection control practices in a healthcare setting, but it's a topic Guh says investigators are taking very seriously.

It's increasingly important because more medical procedures are moving from inpatient facilities to outpatient. With doctors in private practice expected to take on more of the healthcare load to avoid hospital costs, volume is expected to grow exponentially.

"Outpatient oncology facilities vary greatly in the attention to and oversight of infection control and prevention," the CDC plan says. "This is reflected in a number of outbreaks of viral hepatitis and bacterial bloodstream infections that resulted from breaches in basic infection prevention practices (e.g., syringe reuse, mishandling of intravenous administration sets)."

McKnight has recovered from her infection and her recurrence of breast cancer. But she didn't just wait for someone else to take action on this problem. She launched a national advocacy organization called HonoReform (Hepatitis Outbreaks' National Organization for Reform) to safeguard the medical injection process.

These days, she travels to medical groups and government agencies to make her point, and there are great rewards. "Practitioners are telling me, 'Thank you for pointing that out. Now I understand the risks and I will never do that again.' Or, 'I tried to convince my colleagues and they didn't see what I was concerned about. Now they do.'

"We're convinced it's made a difference," McKnight said. The CDC report will help get the message out. "Reporting [of questionable practices] is getting better, and although outbreaks still happen, we think we're drawing more attention to the problem," she said.

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