CDC urges nursing homes to step up ‘superbug’ prevention

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Federal health officials are urging nursing homes to step up their oversight of antibiotic use to prevent outbreaks of “superbugs” that are on the rise nationally.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations Tuesday aiming to crack down on the improper use of the medications, which can spur antibiotic-resistance illnesses known as “superbugs.”

"Superbugs that are hard to treat pose a health risk to all Americans, particularly the elderly whose bodies don’t fight infection as well,” CDC Director Tom Frieden wrote in a release announcing the new guidelines.

The CDC says it is specifically focusing on nursing homes because of the prevalence of antibiotics there: About 70 percent of the 4 million people living in nursing homes received at least one antibiotic prescription each year.

Between one-third to one-half of antibiotic prescriptions were unnecessary or inappropriate, according to a recent study that has raised alarms within the CDC.

Federal health agencies are making antibiotic resistance drugs a priority as more outbreaks are reported nationally. The infections made headlines earlier this year after hitting two Los Angeles-area hospitals, where multiple patients died.

The agency overseeing Medicare, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), recently proposed a rule that would require all long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, to take steps to improve antibiotic use and oversight.