Deadly Staph Infections Still Threaten the U.S.

Atlanta, GA–More than 119,000 people suffered from  bloodstream Staphylococcus aureus (staph) infections in the United States in 2017 – and nearly 20,000 died, according to a new report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The findings show that hospital infection control efforts successfully reduced rates of serious staph infections in the U.S. Recent data, however, show that this success is slowing and staph still threatens patients.

The new data reflect rates for all Staphylococcus aureus infections: methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA). While MRSA is often better known, the report underscores that all staph can be deadly and that healthcare providers and administrators can take prevention steps to protect their patients.

According to electronic health record data from more than 400 acute care hospitals and population-based surveillance data from CDC’s Emerging Infections Program, MRSA bloodstream infections in healthcare settings decreased nationally by approximately 17 percent each year between 2005 and 2012. These reductions have recently started to stall, causing concern. The report also showed an almost 4 percent increase in MSSA infections that started outside of a healthcare setting each year from 2012 to 2017.

The rise in staph infections in the community may be linked to the opioid crisis. As reported by CDC last year, 9 percent of all serious staph infections in 2016 happened in people who inject drugs — up from 4 percent 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.

The risk for serious staph infection is greatest when people stay in healthcare facilities or have surgery, when medical devices are placed in their body, when they inject drugs, or when they come into close contact with someone who has staph.

To reduce the spread of staph in the community, everyone should keep their hands clean, cover wounds, and avoid sharing items that contact skin, like towels, razors, and needles to prevent the spread of staph.