January 4, 2011 | 11:00am
In 2006, 15-year-old Nile Moss went in for an annual series of tests at the Children's Hospital of Orange County. A few days later, he complained of a headache and fever, and his condition quickly worsened. His parents brought him back to a CHOC facility, and he was admitted for severe pneumonia.
Shortly after, he died.
When test results finally came back, it was found that Nile had MRSA, or Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, an infection that kills nearly 100,000 people each year. He had contracted it days earlier during his hospital tests.
The infection could have been prevented, his mother, Carole Moss, believes. That's why she launched a one-woman crusade to ensure that hospitals are held accountable.
She had a major victory last week as California health officials released the first statewide report on hospital-acquired infections
. The report stems from "Nile's Law," legislation that Moss fought to pass that requires facilities to report hospital-acquired infection rates and screen high-risk patients for MRSA.
"Hospitals are not safe," says Moss, who now lives in Riverside County. "You could get an infection from touching a poll or curtain or bedrail. Had I known these kinds of deadly bacteria are lurking around in all these different places, I would have acted completely differently. Had I known the size of the epidemic and that it looks just like the flu, I would have said, 'I'm gonna have him tested for MRSA.' It's a $20 test--big deal."
California is now one of at least 27 states to require hospital-by-hospital infection rates. However, there are some flaws in the data; some hospitals failed to report information and not all hospitals used the same criteria in their reporting.
Still, it's a step in the right direction, Moss believes.
"This massive epidemic has been hidden for decades," she says. "We're finally seeing what we can do to eliminate it."