From January 1980 to July 1990, the Hospital Infections Program of the Centers for Disease Control conducted 125 on-site epidemiologic investigations of nosocomial outbreaks. Seventy-seven (62%) were caused by bacterial pathogens, 11 (9%) were caused by fungi, 10 (8%) were caused by viruses, five (4%) were caused by mycobacteria, and 22 (18%) were caused by toxins or other organisms. The majority of fungi and mycobacterial outbreaks occurred since July 1985. Fourteen (11%) outbreaks were device related, 16 (13%) were procedure related, and 28 (22%) were product related. The proportion of outbreaks involving products, procedures, or devices increased from 47% during 1980-1985 to 67% between 1986 and July 1990. Recent outbreaks have shown that packed red blood cell transfusion-associated Yersinia enterocolitica sepsis results from contamination of the blood by the asymptomatic donor; that povidone-iodine solutions can become intrinsically contaminated and cause outbreaks of infection and/or pseudoinfection; and that rapidly growing mycobacteria can cause chronic otitis media, surgical wound infection, and hemodialysis-associated infections. These and other outbreaks demonstrate how epidemiologic and laboratory investigations can be combined to identify new pathogens and sources of infection and ultimately result in disease prevention.
Am. J. Med. 1991 Sep;91(3B):101S-106S