The 5 Latest Facts about Hospital-Acquired Infections & Patient Safety

Photo credit: wnstn via / CC BY
Photo credit: wnstn via / CC BY

The most recent study reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed that more than 75,000 patients died from infections that they acquired while in a hospital. Although this was an improvement from previous studies, the amount of personal suffering caused by these preventable infections is still staggering.  Here are the five latest facts about hospital-acquired infections and patient safety that we, at Decof, Decof & Barry, believe everyone should know.

  • The most noted of these infections is MRSA. Nearly 20,000 patients die from MRSA each year and nearly 90% of those infections were acquired at a hospital. MRSA stands for “methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus,” a type of bacteria that has developed an immunity to the antibiotics that are typically used to treat staph infections. These bacteria can cause pneumonia, blood stream infections and urinary tract infections.
  • Spread of bacteria is preventable. Since these bacteria are mostly spread through touching, the CDC has stated that it is almost completely preventable. Through experimental programs across the country, it has been shown that rather inexpensive procedures can dramatically reduce the spread of the bacteria. Simply bathing ICU patients in an antibacterial soap (Chlorhexidine) and using an antibiotic nasal oil (mupirocin) led to cutting the spread of the bacteria by almost 50%. Yet, even these rather simple improvements have been only hesitantly employed.
  • VRE is a significant threat. Moreover, there is a multitude of other organisms that are spread in the hospital environment that cause serious illness and death.  VRE (vancomycin resistant enterococcus) is becoming a significant threat along with viral and fungal infections.  According to the CDC, VRE can live in the human intestines and female genital tract without causing disease. However, sometimes it can cause infections of the urinary tract, the bloodstream, or of wounds associated with catheters or surgical procedures.
  • Healthcare providers must wash hands. So, what can a patient do to protect against acquiring one or more of these infections? The simplest and, by far, the most important is to insist that any healthcare provider wash their hands in your presence. No one should be touching you without sanitizing their hands first (that includes visitors!). You always need to be an advocate for your own health; don’t think that it is being impolite or inappropriate to remind everyone to sanitize their hands. Good providers will appreciate the reminder.
  • Check out the CDC website. Spending some time reviewing the articles and information that are available from the CDC will answer the questions you may have. Click here to access the website.
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