Letter: Killer bug questions that do need asking

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The Independent Online
Sir: There may indeed be a 'hot new strain' of haemolytic streptococcus, but your front-page story, 'Killer bug may become even more virulent' (25 May), gave no evidence for this, beyond quoting Hugh Pennington, Professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, saying that 'there is a whiff of evidence'. Why not simply admit that we shall have to wait for the facts, which may come from the Government's laboratories.

While you wait, you could usefully throw some light on the whole affair: it is a cause for concern that a number of people are dying of post-operative wound infections. Surely your role is not to increase the public's fear and confusion, but to ask questions that are likely to throw some light on the matter.

For example:

How many people die each year following post-operative wound infection?

Is this figure increasing or decreasing, relative to the number of operations performed?

Are sufficient controls in place to minimise the incidence of post-operative wound infections?

Are there systems in place to identify (usually treatable) wound infections in time to take action?

Are there systems in place to ensure that the appropriate antibiotics are administered as early as possible?

What is the cost to the taxpayer of post-operative infections?

Are health service cost control measures increasing the risk of infection (eg: using inadequately trained staff)?

There are many other legitimate questions you could be asking, most of which have an answer - if you ask the right people.

It is all too easy to blame 'killer bugs', or creatures from outer space, but it is probably more useful to investigate the conditions that allow life-saving or routine procedures to end in death.

Yours sincerely,

ANDREW HEENAN

Editor

Journal of Wound Care

London, WC2

26 May

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