Noroviruses Are Leading Cause of Hospital Infections

Particularly in nonacute care setting; often leading to unit closure

MONDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Norovirus outbreaks are the leading cause of infection outbreaks in hospitals, particularly in the non-acute care setting, and often lead to unit closure, according to an article published in the February issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

Emily Rhinehart, R.N., M.P.H., of Chartis Insurance in Atlanta, and colleagues conducted a two-part electronic survey of infection preventionists to determine the frequency of outbreak investigations in U.S. hospitals over a 24-month period as well as to collect information on specific investigations, including control measures.

A total of 882 responses were received, which provided data on 386 outbreaks in 289 hospitals throughout the United States. The researchers found that four organisms were responsible for nearly 60 percent of outbreaks. Noroviruses accounted for 18 percent of the outbreaks, Staphylococcus aureus for 17 percent, Acinetobacter spp for 14 percent, and Clostridium difficile for 10 percent. Norovirus outbreaks predominated in behavioral health and rehabilitation/long-term care facilities, while bacterial infections caused by the other three organisms were more likely to occur in medical and surgical units. In 22.6 percent of these outbreaks, the unit was closed, and norovirus infection was most often associated with closure.

"It is clear that outbreaks of health care-associated infections occur with some frequency in hospitals as well as non-acute settings. Many are in intensive care units and other high-risk patient populations, but, given the frequency of norovirus as a cause of health care-associated outbreaks, our data and that of others demonstrate outbreaks may occur in rehabilitation units, long-term care acute units/hospitals, and skilled nursing facilities as well as in psychiatric/behavioral health residential settings," the authors write.

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