'Superbug' Bill Would Allow Floridians To Track Treatment-Resistant Infections
A bill moving through the Florida House would create a new website for keeping track of treatment-resistant bacterial infections. The bill is aimed at fighting such infections also by fostering new research into so-called “superbugs.”
PBS viewers might recall the October FRONTLINE episode called “Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria.” FRONTLINE examined the rise in the number of bacterial infections that are resistant to all known treatments. They can kill otherwise healthy people and can be spread through contact with everyday settings, such as playgrounds.
In January, three months after the documentary aired, Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach) credited it for inspiring her to file an infection-control bill. She introduced the measure this week in the House Health Quality Subcommittee.
“The objective of the bill from the very beginning was simply to make this information available to Floridians. So when there is an outbreak of this antibiotic-resistant threat, that Floridians have a single place that they can go to to find out where those outbreaks are occurring,” Adkins said.
The single place she proposes would be a state health department website. Adkins’ bill requires doctors, physician assistants and nurses to use the site to record cases of treatment-resistant bacterial infections and where in the state they were found. The public would have access to that information.
University of South Florida Health Research Vice President Phillip Marty says that’s sound public health policy.
“You might be able to able to get some idea, where there’s a single hospital, what the occurrence rates might be with a single hospital. But I don’t think we have a good picture. I think that’s one of the reasons this bill is being proposed, so that we have a much better and clearer picture of what’s happening in the state,” he says.
The measure also calls for an emergency response team to develop protocols for dealing with outbreaks. And it authorizes the health department to investigate outbreaks and report them to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Adkins told the Health Quality Subcommittee, “Twenty billion dollars is spent each year in excess direct healthcare costs as it relates to antibiotic-resistant threats, and it’s also estimated that 22- to 23,000 Americans die each year.”
That’s why many nursing home and assisted living facility owners support the bill.
Florida Healthcare Association spokeswoman Kristen Knapp says, “We have about 70,000 frail elders who are currently living in our state’s nursing homes, and those individuals have very complex medical needs.”
She says the Association represents about 600 facilities, and members support the idea of transparency in treatment.
“Certainly this will help improve upon the care of our elders as long as our staff, families, residents and the general public have the information that they need about infectious disease, how that affects a person’s health,” she says.
In addition to the reporting requirements, the bill also requires a taskforce to recommend future research needed in the fight against treatment-resistance. The bill passed its first committee unanimously. Meanwhile the Senate version, sponsored by Sen. Aaron Bean (R-Jacksonville), has yet to be heard.