A few corrections
I am writing regarding the article titled “Hospital Infection Rates Continue To Grow” published in your Dec. 30, issue. I was quoted in the story and would like to correct several errors.
The article quoted me incorrectly as saying that “medical officials in Western Australia recently adopted the ‘active detection and isolation’ methodology in response to rising MRSA infection rates, and the rates declined.” Actually I didn’t say that this was done recently; it was done in the 1980s and has worked very well for decades.
The article said, “Farr was a medical internist at UVA in the early 1980s, he said, when the university hospital detected rising MRSA rates and instituted ‘active detection and isolation’ methods to keep the disease in check.” Actually I said I was a medical resident physician at the time, and the ‘active detection and isolation’ at UVA wasn’t started “when the university hospital detected rising MRSA rates.” It was first tried following almost three years of uncontrolled epidemic MRSA spread and infections.
The article said that the measures that worked at UVA included “testing of incoming patients to identify and isolate those carrying the bacterium.” Actually the screening at UVA at that time focused on high risk inpatients not “incoming patients” (because the MRSA being spread was already inside the hospital).
Finally the article said that “The measures have been formalized into guidelines published in 2003 by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), authored largely by Dr. William R. Jarvis.” The control measures, prominently including active detection and isolation, were indeed part of the SHEA guideline’s recommendations, but the statement about principal authorship of the SHEA guideline by one person was incorrect. I communicated with Dr. Jarvis who agreed that the statement was incorrect, and Dr. Jarvis said that the reporter did not speak with him. Seven epidemiologists with expertise controlling antibiotic resistant infections were appointed to a SHEA committee to write the guideline: Muto CA, Jernigan JA, Ostrowksy BE, Richet HM, Jarvis WR, Boyce JM, Farr BM.
Barry M. Farr, MD, MSc
Professor Emeritus, Department of Medicine
University of Virginia
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