Nosocomial necrotising enterocolitis outbreaks: epidemiology and control measures
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Necrotising enterocolitis (NEC) is one of the most serious gastrointestinal diseases among newborns and it mainly affects those in intensive care units. The aetiology of the disease has been reported to be multifactorial and both sporadic cases and nosocomial outbreaks have occurred. In this report, we review 17 epidemics of NEC reported in the literature between 1973 and 1999. The number of confirmed cases ranged from 1 to 32 with an average of 10.5 confirmed cases. On average, 16.15% of cases required surgery (range 0–66.6%). The average mortality rate was 6.25% (range 0–87.5%). The mean age at disease onset was 9.5 days (range 6.6–29 days). Most of the infants had low birth weight (median weight 1,395 g; range 1,112–2,788 g, calculated on the reported mean weights). The main risk factors associated with NEC were: low birth weight, low gestational age, low Apgar score, perinatal complications, hyaline membrane disease, and umbilical catheterisation. The bacteria involved often included Enterobacteriaceae, particularly Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Enterobacter cloacae type 3305573. The causative role of Clostridia in NEC is controversial. With regard to viral agents, coronarovirus, rotavirus and enterovirus, such as echovirus type 22, were isolated during some of the epidemics. The recommended control measures for NEC epidemics are those used for epidemics of other orofaecally transmitted infections.
Conclusion Understanding the epidemiology of necrotising enterocolitis is fundamental if adequate preventive control measures are to be developed and applied.
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