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January 1980

Through A Glass Darkly: Nosocomial Pseudoepidemics and Pseudobacteremias

Arch Intern Med. 1980;140(1):26-28. doi:10.1001/archinte.1980.00330130028009

Appearances to the mind are of four kinds. Things either are what they appear to be; or they neither are, and do not appear to be; or they are, and do not appear to be; or they are not, yet appear to be. Rightly to aim in all these cases is the wise man's task. Epictetus

The experience recounted by Lynch and his co-workers in this issue of the Archives (see p 65) epitomizes two phenomena that are being encountered with increasing frequency by present-day hospital epidemiologists, "pseudoepidemics" and "pseudoinfections."

A pseudoepidemic of nosocomial infections is the occurrence of an increased number of infections in the hospital, usually caused by one species, that is misconstrued as denoting a true epidemic. Recognizing a nosocomial epidemic—which, believe it or not, can often be exceedingly difficult if it is caused by a common pathogen or smolders on over a prolonged period1—is