Superbugs are bacteria that resist antibiotics. These bacteria, and sometimes viruses, can build up a resistance to drugs, which means some superbug infections have no treatment options. Most recently, superbug headlines have talked about the Zika virus. The number of infections or superbug-related deaths is an unknown figure due to reporting inadequacies across the nation. Senator Jerry Hill hopes to change this with his Superbug Bill.
On December 5, Senator Jerry Hill (D – San Francisco) proposed a SuperBug Bill in California. The proposed bill would introduce legislation that would require the reporting of deaths related to antimicrobial-resistant infections. The bill also proposes that doctors record superbug infections on death certificates when they are the cause of death.
Counting Superbug Infections
In September of this year, investigative journalists from Reuters found that tens of thousands of superbug-related deaths go uncounted each year. This is due to reporting requirement variance across the nation. These infections are also not reported as a cause of death or contributing factor on death certificates.
Few states record these infections, but it almost doesn’t matter. There is no system to record or evaluate these superbug infections and deaths on a national scale.
There are a few reasons that may explain why this is happening. Firstly, most states do not require the reporting of antibiotic-resistant infections. Another reason is that for hospitals to report superbug infections found, they must admit that someone got infected at their facility. This creates a major incentive not to report and superbug infections.
Another reason why superbug infections and deaths are going unreported is because it seems that some doctors don’t understand how large or important the issue is. This is a major reason why a national database needs to be created and maintained. The healthcare industry has no way to know if superbugs are on the rise or not because the data and the information are not available. In other words, they don’t know what they don’t know.
Mandates of the SuperBug Bill
Senator Hill’s Superbug Bill proposal would require the reporting of drug-resistant pathogen infections and deaths caused by them. Beginning July 1, 2018, hospitals and clinical labs would be required to submit an annual report to the California Department of Health.
The legislation would amend a law for death certificates, requiring superbug infections to be recorded if it was a leading cause or contributing factor of death. If passed, the law would also require the California Department of Health to publish a yearly report on infections and deaths.
The SuperBug Bill would also establish a nationwide surveillance system of super bug reporting. This system would be critical to tracking and preventing future superbug infections. While the public would have access to reports, they would not have access to facility-specific information.
Not Hill’s First Rodeo
This is not the first time that Senator Jerry Hill has tried to introduce a superbug bill. In fact, in 2014 Hill introduce legislation that would also require reporting of drug-resistant infection-related deaths. However, by the time the bill passed, it was stripped down. It included a mandate for hospitals to introduce stewardship programs to prevent the over-prescription of antibiotics that lead to drug resistance.
Though Hill’s other superbug-related bills have been passed regarding the regulation of antibiotic use in livestock, it seems that the healthcare industry is hesitant to monitor superbug infections in humans. It is hard to combat an issue if you don’t know how vast that issue is.
It’s odd that our health care industry would not be pushing for this sort of legislation nationally. Though it would require hospitals to share when their patients contract these infections, the proposed Superbug bill would only help patient care. We will keep an eye on Hill’s proposal and see if California will set a precedent across the nation to record superbug infections and subsequent deaths.