Saturday, November 5, 2011

News Brief: Efforts to Cut Risks to Patients at Cancer Clinics

Ariel Lefland

Due to low white blood cell count, or neutropenia, cancer patients are at heightened risk for infection; nearly 60,000 cancer patients per year must be hospitalized due to infection. Recent concerns regarding outbreaks of infections, including hepatitis B and C, have prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to increase efforts to improve infection control. Targeted specifically at outpatient oncology clinics, a new infection-control guide released Tuesday follows a broader guide issued last summer to better less than satisfactory standards currently in place at many clinics. The new CDC campaign aims to reduce the rate of infection in over one million patients who receive chemotherapy and radiation treatments at outpatient facilities each year.
In the past ten years, the CDC reports, more than 125,000 patients have potentially been exposed to diseases solely from unsafe injection procedures. Other hazardous practices including improper medication preparation in blood-processing areas, common use of saline bags and re-use of single-dose vials led to closure of a New Jersey clinic. Twenty-nine cases of hepatitis B were identified and 2,700 patients total had to be notified of possible exposure to disease. Officials closed a Mississippi chemotherapy clinic this summer after an outbreak of bacterial infections that resulted from reusing needles.
The campaign is a voluntary program for outpatient clinics. It will promote strict observance of hand-hygiene guidelines, sterile procedures for preparing and administering medications and proper and safe injection practices. The CDC has also launched a new website that allows cancer patients to assay their own risk for infection and gain advice on prevention. Additionally, the CDC has reminded patients to ask for the flu shot, as influenza is an especially dangerous infection for cancer patients. Outpatient providers must understand and recognize the important of infection control in cancer patients; providers must be made aware of the risks of using poor sterile techniques and must learn proper procedures.

Reference: Landro, Laura. "Efforts to Cut Risk to Patients at the Cancer Clinic." The Wall Street Journal. Web. Oct 25 2011.
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