Healthcare-associated infections claim more lives in Arizona every year than auto accidents or influenza.  Surprised?  That’s why the Governor issued a proclamation making this week as Infection Prevention week in Arizona- providing us with an opportunity to call attention to one of the CDC’s Winnable Battles–  defeating Healthcare-Associated Infections.  We had a news conference (along with hospital partners) this week to talk about our statewide efforts reduce these unnecessary and preventable infections.  These infections don’t just claim lives, they’re real expensive too, on my blog in March, I talked about a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine outlining just how expensive these infections are.

New numbers from the just released 2009 Vital Statistics report talk about one of these infections called C.diff.  In 2009, about 2,500 Arizonans were hospitalized with intestinal inflammation from Clostridium difficile, a bacterial inflammation of the intestines. This disease is of growing public health concern because it is sometimes acquired in hospitals and other health care institutions with long-term patients as residents. In 2009, 161 Arizonans died from intestinal inflammation (enterocolitis) due to Clostridium difficile. Those 65 years or older accounted for about 90% of the deaths.

We’ve got to work smart to get rid of healthcare-associated infections, educating both providers and the public.  Our Licensing division works with all healthcare and long term care facilities to make sure they use best practices.  Some of the most effective interventions are the most simple and low-tech:  good hand washing by all healthcare professionals, doing a quick nasal swab before surgery and using a different cleanser on the skin before surgery.  Simple steps like these and a long term plan can make a difference in protecting those in hospitals.

We’re also working a different angle to educate the public; we are holding a contest asking the public to make a video to teach the rest of the folks and there’s a $500 prize (paid for by an association control specialists in the state). Even though staff and family can’t win, be sure to let your friends know – we really want a creative answer to teach the public.  More details are on our website: