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Matheson Urges Focus on Combating Deadly Infections

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Matheson Urges Focus on Combating Deadly Infections

Congressman Jim Matheson has introduced legislation urging a stepped-up effort against the so-called "superbugs" that are infecting—sometimes with fatal results—hospital patients and even healthy individuals in schools, the military and the workplace. Matheson's bill - H Res 988--seeks to raise awareness of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA.

Matheson's resolution highlights a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that estimated in 2005, more than 94,000 invasive MRSA infections occurred in the U.S. and more than 18,500 were fatal.

"In Utah, the number of children being seen with aggressive infections at Primary Children's Medical Center has increased nearly 20-fold since 1989," said Matheson. "Government health agencies must increase the effort to manage antimicrobial resistance by better addressing the cause, prevention and control and by encouraging the development of new effective antibiotics.

Doctors warn that drug-resistant bacteria such as staphylococcus (staph) are a growing health crisis in this country. In the past, the outbreaks were seen in hospitals but recent cases have surfaced in schools in states such as Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Illinois, New York and Florida as well as among sports teams, military recruits, correctional facilities and other community settings.

"We see infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria among Utah children virtually every day and many are life-threatening," said Dr. Andrew Pavia, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Utah and Hospital Epidemiologist at Primary Children's Medical Center. "We really need better tools to track these infections, control their spread and to treat them."

Matheson has been working with members of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) whose 8,000-member group of physicians has become increasingly alarmed by what they view as a brewing health crisis. According to a 2007 research study, 34 out of every 1,000 hospital patients have active hospital-acquired drug-resistant staph infections; another 12 patients are ‘colonized' with the bug which means they could contract or spread the disease. A recent concern is that about 70% of invasive MRSA infections now appear to have their onset in the community. Also tuberculosis (TB)—which kills 2 million worldwide a year, more than any other infectious disease—is becoming increasingly resistant.

Studies show that individuals infected with MRSA are likely to have longer and more expensive hospital stays, with an average cost of $35,000.

Matheson has also introduced HR 3697—the Strategies to Address Antimicrobial Resistance (STAAR) Act—outlining a strategy to combat antimicrobial resistance. The STAAR Act is supported by IDSA, the American Medical Association (AMA), American College of Physicians, American Public Health Association (APHA), Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), Pediatric Infections Diseases Society, PIDS, National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists (SIDP), and Premier, an alliance of 1,700 nonprofit hospitals and health care systems nationwide.

"One of the great achievements of modern medicine has been the development of antibiotics. The savings in terms of lives and health care costs have been enormous. The losses—should we lose this fight against this new class of drug-resistant bugs—could be staggering. We can't afford any further delay," said Matheson.

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