It is one of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States, responsible for an estimated 99,000 deaths per year. It is largely preventable and hits you when you’re down.
It is health care-associated infection. You get it when you go to the hospital for treatment, but end up with the added problem of a life-threatening infection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of these health care-associated infections (HAI),
An infection is considered to be an HAI if it develops at a hospital or other patient care facility if the patient did not have it prior to treatment. It is a global crisis affecting both patients and health care workers. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at any given time, 1.4 million people are suffering from HAI, and the risk in developing countries is 2 – 20 times higher than in developed countries.
Such infections often lead to longer hospital stays, increase the likelihood of readmission, and add considerably to medical costs.
The current swine flu (H1N1) pandemic and the increased incidence of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), also referred to as a “super bug,” are fueling public concern for how medical facilities will work to prevent HAI and how they will be held accountable.
We take it for granted that surgical teams will scrub up prior to surgery. But during the course of a hospital stay, we can quickly lose track of the number of health care workers, other hospital staff, and visitors in and out of our room. It is almost impossible for a patient to monitor. We must assume that the people entrusted with our care are washing their hands between patients and after touching materials that may spread infection. Sometimes we’re assuming too much. Yet it is this simple act of hand washing — something we take for granted — that is the single most important thing we can do to cut down on the spread of HAI.
Hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities must take the steps necessary to educate ALL staff regarding HAI. It is not only a tremendous financial drain on our already overburdened facilities, it is a matter of life and death — mostly preventable death. The following video, from The Department of Health and Human and Services, Centers for Disease Control, educates patients on simple steps they can take when in a hospital.
We can do something about it. Earlier this month, International Infection Prevention Week was part of a national campaign for health care professionals designed to call attention to the problem and to offer education about protecting patients from hospital infections.
Mandatory public reporting of health care-acquired infections and preventable medical errors will spur quality improvement. You can help by asking your representatives to support legislation to improve the prevention, detection, and treatment of healthcare-acquired infections.
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Photo: Centers for Disease Control
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