Norovirus Found to Be Leading Cause of Infection Outbreaks in U.S. Hospitals

Norovirus 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, making it the leading cause of outbreaks, according to a new study published in the February issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.


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Researchers collected survey responses from 822 APIC members who work in U.S. hospitals regarding outbreak investigations at their institutions from 2008-2009. 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 control measures including unit closures. The researchers discovered the following key points:

•    Nearly 300 hospitals reported 386 outbreak investigations over a 24-month period.
•    Four organisms caused nearly 60 percent of the outbreaks: norovirus (18.2 percent), Staphylococcus aureus (17.5 percent), Acinetobacter spp (13.7 percent) and Clostridium difficile (10.3 percent).
•    Medical/surgical units were the most common location of outbreak investigations (25.7 percent), followed by surgical units (13.9 percent).
•    Unit closures were reported in 22.6 percent of the cases, causing an average 16.7 bed closures for 8.3 days.

The authors suggested hospital employees establish robust infection prevention and control programs with written policies and procedures as well as communications with internal and external partners in order to prepare for all aspects of an infection outbreak.

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