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Drop in Pennsylvania infection cases reported

Reported cases of two common and potentially deadly types of hospital-acquired infections dropped significantly last year at Pennsylvania hospitals, the state Department of Health reported on Wednesday.

Bloodstream infections caused by central lines -- catheters typically used in intensive care units to deliver antibiotics and fluids into the bloodstream -- declined 24.4 percent from 2009 to 1,606 cases last year. Catheter-associated urinary tract infections declined to 3,245 cases, a decrease of 13.2 percent from two years ago.

The overall rate of hospital-acquired infections dropped by 3.4 percent last year against 2009 rates.

The 2010 report used data supplied by 251 health care facilities statewide, the majority of which were acute-care hospitals. It is the third such report produced by the state health department since a 2007 state law signed by then-Gov. Ed Rendell required reporting of hospital-acquired infections.

"I wouldn't have expected any other outcome in the report because these are the infections that we've been working on for a decade," said Dr. Carlene Muto, medical director of infection control and hospital epidemiology at UPMC, one of several hospitals in Western Pennsylvania singled out as having significantly better-than-predicted number of catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

Other area hospitals with significantly better rates of urinary tract infections included Allegheny General Hospital, Butler Memorial Hospital, Canonsburg General Hospital, Excela Health Frick Hospital and Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital.

The report attributed the drop to prevention efforts implemented by hospitals, as well as changes in the way hospitals identify and report the infections. But it suggests that surgical site infections, which comprise about a quarter of infections, are not declining as fast.

Diane Frndak, vice president of safety and quality at West Penn Allegheny Health System, said teams of doctors, nurses and other workers during the past year have been testing ways to reduce surgical site infections, which are common in cardiac surgeries and knee-replacement operations. Solutions have included giving patients better discharge instructions and selecting better antibiotics, she said.

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