That's fortunate, because the problem is everywhere. The June 2007 survey found MRSA is "endemic in virtually all U. S. health-care facilities." Screening is necessary because patients who unknowingly carry MRSA bacteria on their body shed it in particles on wheel chairs, blood pressure cuffs, and virtually every surface. These patients don't realize they have the germ, because it doesn't make then sick until it gets inside their body, usually via a surgical incision, a catheter, or a ventilator for breathing. With screening, hospitals can identify the MRSA positive patients, isolate them, use separate equipment, and insist on gowns and gloves when treating them.
Screening is common in several European countries that have almost eradicated MRSA, and some 50 studies show it works in the U.S. too.
Congress and seven state legislatures are considering making screening mandatory. Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania acted in 2007. Why is legislation needed? Because the CDC, which is responsible for providing guidelines for hospitals on how to prevent infections, has failed to recommend that all hospitals screen patients. The CDC's lax guidelines give hospitals an excuse to do too little.
It is common for government regulators to become soft on the industry they are supposed to regulate. A coziness develops. Federal Aviation Administration inspectors failed to insist on timely electrical systems inspections, say news reports. The same may be true at the CDC, where government administrators spend too much time listening to hospital executives and not enough time with grieving families.
Betsy McCaughey is chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths and a former lieutenant governor of New York.