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CDC Highlights Georgia’s Fight Against Infections

March 3, 2014

For the past five years, Georgia has worked to protect patients from dangerous infections and advocate for the responsible use of antibiotics. In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will recognize this good work, much of which has been carried out by the Georgia Healthcare Associated Infection Advisory Committee (GHAIAC) and Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH).  

On Tues., March 4, CDC will release a Vital Signs report highlighting Georgia’s success in addressing health care-associated infections and increasing antibiotic stewardship programs throughout Georgia.  Also, this week’s edition of the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) will highlight health care associated infections in the United States.

Health care-associated infections cost the U.S. health care system billions of dollars each year. According to the CDC, more than 2 million Americans become infected with drug-resistant bacteria, and 23,000 die from their diseases. These infections also can have devastating emotional, financial and medical consequences for patients.

In 2009, DPH established the Georgia Healthcare Associated Infection Advisory Committee - comprised of physicians, academic researchers, microbiologists, pharmacists, infection prevention professionals, consumer advocates, CDC subject matter experts, members of the Georgia Hospital Association and the Georgia Medical Care Foundation.  The committee was charged with making recommendations on the prevention of health care associated infections.

“I am thrilled that Georgia is being recognized for its work in antibiotic stewardship,” said Jeanne Negley, health care associated infections surveillance director for DPH. “What makes the Georgia health care associated infection program effective is the selfless dedication of the volunteers who all give of their time and expertise to make this program work.” 

When GHAIAC was formed 5 years ago, one of its first actions was to increase focus on antibiotic stewardship efforts. At that time, half of all Georgia hospitals had no stewardship programs in place. GHAIAC facilitated training programs focused on hospital physicians and pharmacists, key individuals needed to ensure successful and sustainable stewardship programs. Through these trainings, GHAIAC developed new state partnerships and support for increasing stewardship activities in hospitals. 

The CDC has called antibiotic resistance one of the biggest public health threats today. After years of overuse, many once-powerful antibiotics that providers relied on to kill common infections have lost their potency, leaving patients to fall ill from diseases that were once easily treated. The goal of antibiotic stewardship is to reduce antibiotic overuse and limit the emergence and transmission of antibiotic resistant bacteria. When health care facilities have antibiotic stewardship programs in place, they can reduce unnecessary cost, decrease resistance to antibiotics and improve patient health outcomes.

In February, GHAIAC launched the Georgia Honor Roll for Antibiotic Stewardship, a recognition program that honors hospitals working towards meeting Georgia’s standards for an antibiotic stewardship program. Currently, there are no federal regulations for antibiotic stewardship in hospitals, creating a priority for standards to be set. 

“The Antibiotic Stewardship Subcommittee has developed this program, so that the standards can be increased each year, as hospitals improve their efforts,” Negley said. “We hope to see all Georgia hospitals join this Honor Roll in near future.”

To learn more about HAIs in Georgia and the U.S., read the March 2014 CDC Vital Signs and the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). .