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State health officials can’t track hospital-related infections

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 22, 2011

State law does not require Georgia hospitals to routinely share information about infection rates with the state's infectious disease experts. It requires hospitals to notify public health officials when they have an outbreak or identify certain infectious conditions, such as tuberculosis or acute hepatitis. But most of the infections patients pick up inside hospitals do not have to be reported, despite the danger to public health. About 1 in 20 hospitalized patients will contract an infection while receiving care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Georgia Department of Public Health used a federal grant to create a program to combat infections that patients often get while in hospitals, and officials hope that program will eventually allow statistical tracking. The federal government has begun work on a national tracking program that will eventually provide public data. But for now, identifying which hospitals and which conditions pose the biggest threat to Georgia patients is largely guesswork.