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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs


VA Expanding Successful Infection Control Program Nationwide

May 16, 2007, 08:00:00 AM

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VA Secretary: VA a Leader in Solving National Problem

WASHINGTON – Following dramatic success at one of its medical centers with reducing the infection rate from a common, drug-resistant, hospital-borne bacteria, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has expanded the program to all VA medical centers.

Using simple, easy-to-follow techniques, clinicians at VA’s Pittsburgh Health Care System dramatically reduced the number of cases of infection from Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) at their facility.  MRSA is a dangerous infection, difficult to eradicate, that can cause pneumonia or infect wounds and the bloodstream.  

“VA is a proven leader in reducing hospital-acquired infections, and our results are being replicated already throughout the health care industry,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson. “By expanding this successful program to all of our medical centers, we will enhance health care and safety for our veteran patients.”

MRSA is primarily spread through direct physical contact with a person or object carrying the bacteria.  Typically, it resides on the skin or in the nose.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MRSA is one of the most rapidly growing infections associated with health care facilities, and is responsible for more than 100,000 U.S. hospitalizations each year.  

In one of the program’s major strategies, VA health care professionals use nasal swabs to test each patient being admitted, transferred or discharged from a health care facility to identify if they carry the organism.  

VA is now implementing this infection prevention program at all 155 VA medical centers across the country.

The four primary strategies VA will use to eliminate MRSA include obtaining nasal specimens from all patients when they are admitted, transferred or discharged; isolating all patients who test positive for MRSA; emphasizing the importance of thorough hand washing for everyone; and cultural transformation to make infection control a primary goal. 

“We are very optimistic that the results we saw in Pittsburgh can be repeated at all VA hospitals,” said Dr. Michael J. Kussman, the Department’s Acting Under Secretary for Health. “We plan to share our experiences with other government and private health care organizations so MRSA infections can be reduced elsewhere as well.” 

Dr. Rajiv Jain of the Pittsburgh Health Care System is the national director of the MRSA prevention initiative.  

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