Community-associated strains have also caused some deaths in otherwise healthy people, including several children who were killed by MRSA infections in the late 1990s. Typically, however, community-associated strains cause skin or other soft tissue infections that are treatable with newer antibiotics.
According to the research, the number of hospital-associated infections remained relatively stable from 1999 to 2003, even decreasing a bit from 2003 to 2005. Some of the reduction was due to better infection-control measures, such as more thorough and frequent hand washing among doctors, Klein said.
Community-associated strains, however, are becoming far more commonplace. Among outpatients with staph infections, MRSA infections increased by more than 90 percent, according to the data culled from 300 microbiology labs serving hospitals across the nation.
Most of the increase was due to community-associated strains, which rose from 3.6 percent of all MRSA infections in 1999 to 28.2 percent in 2006, the study found.
The increases pose a risk to hospital inpatients, who may become infected by contaminated equipment in surgical centers used for inpatients and outpatients or by the doctors themselves.
The study did not find an increase in hospital-associated strains spreading in the community.
After hearing reports of community-associated MRSA strains showing up in hospitals, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed the data it has collected on invasive MRSA infections, said Dr. Fernanda Lessa, a CDC medical epidemiologist.
The CDC report found that the proportion of community-associated MRSA infections in hospitals, compared with MRSA infections overall, remained small a
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