Federal health officials on Wednesday said hospitals' progress on curbing infections has stalled, while the opioid crisis has increased the risk of infection.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a new report shows methicillin-resistant staph aureus bloodstream infections in healthcare settings fell nationally by 17% each year from 2005 to 2012, but there hasn't been a significant decline in MRSA infections since 2012. In 2017, more than 119,000 people contracted bloodstream Staphylococcus aureus infections that weren't MRSA. Nearly 20,000 of them died.
Schuchat said "inconsistent" infection control practices at hospitals or a general lapse in adherence to CDC recommendations could be to blame. The agency recommends using gloves and gowns, regularly reviewing infection data and moving quickly to intervene when infection reduction goals are not met.
Electronic health record data from more than 400 acute-care hospitals and population-based surveillance data showed a nearly 4% increase in MRSA infections that began outside of the healthcare setting, or community-onset infections, from 2012 to 2017.
In 2016, 9% of all serious staph infections occurred in people who inject drugs. That rate grew from 4% in 2011.
Staph is a type of germ often found on human skin and on surfaces and objects that touch the skin. While the germ does not always harm people, it can get into the bloodstream and cause serious infections, which can lead to sepsis or death.
People are at greatest risk for a serious staph infection when they stay in healthcare facilities or have surgery.
"Staph infections are a serious threat and can be deadly," CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in an agency news release. "U.S. hospitals have made significant progress, but this report tells us that all staph infections must remain a prevention priority for health care providers."
Ways to reduce the spread of staph include keeping hands clean; covering wounds; and not sharing items that contact skin, such as towels, razors and needles.
The new data reflect rates for all Staphylococcus aureus infections, both MRSA and methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureu, or MSSA.