What Causes 99,000 Deaths and is Largely Preventable?

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),

  • 32 percent are urinary tract infections
  • 22 percent are surgical site infections
  • 15 percent are pneumonia (lung infections)
  • 14 percent are bloodstream infections

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.

From The Petition Site:

Urge Congress to Curb the Spread of Hospital “Superbug” Infections

Help Prevent Medical Errors

Related Reading:

Calling on Hospitals to Prevent Spread of MRSA

Wash Your Hands or Pay the Consequences

Connect with me on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

Photo: Centers for Disease Control


Kadiyali S.
Kadiyali S8 years ago

Multi-Resistant Bacteria are now resistant to most antiseptics and antibiotics. Over enthusiastic deep cleaning, antibiotics and biocides kill good bacteria and has encouraged super bugs growth.

Hospital practical procedures, minor & major surgeries and even heart transplant will soon come to a grinding halt. The very technology we’ve created to help us live more comfortable and, yes, often healthier lives will turn around & bite us hard............

This is now the a major threat to us all because the bacteria are transfering their technical know how to other bacteria and have now an army of 12 bacteria, viruses and even fungus that are resistant to treatment. Soon you will realise how silly we have been to asume we are the rulers in this universe, but we are not alone....

Please visit and check out my website www.medifix.org/safec

Heather A.
Heather A8 years ago

Antibiotics are very overused, and this is the reason that so many types of bacteria have become resistant to them. We need to stop accepting that our doctors prescribe antibiotics first and ask questions later. We need to stop putting antibiotic ointment on every little scrape (salt water is currently considered the best way to disinfect minor wounds). Finally, as Susan L. pointed out, we need to put a stop to animal agriculture as it is currently practised.

Johnathan S.
Johnathan S8 years ago

It's nice to know that people put out tips like these to help others live healthier lives, but something tells me that a simple thing like this will sadly be soon forgotten by the general public, and diseases will then continue to be spread via hospitals and clinics. It would probably be best if all doctors and medical staff were required to wash their hands before direct contact with a patient, to maximize safety.

Mary B.
Mary B8 years ago

Ainsley Chelmars,This is a discussion about deaths caused by infections aquired while in hospitals, and your anti-abortion position does not belong here. Further more "little babies" are not what's aborted.People like you should be fined $100. everytime you spread a lie like that around.And the money should go to making sure low income women get adequet birthcontrol.

Ronald N.
Ronald N8 years ago

Hospitals and even doctors offices seem to be areas of concern when it comes to transmitting bacteria, by touch or air-borne means. It seems to me this is an evolutionary problem where bacteria and viruses have continued to wreek havoc. It seems that it's a constant battle to keep up with the mutations and variances of some of these strains of bacteria and viruses. I can't criticize hospitals from taking extreme measures, but the scrutiny is heavier and repercussion of liability can be extreme. They are doing the right thing.

For healthy living, it wouldn't hurt us by doing things that exposes ourselves to the natural elements. It would be healthier instead not worrying about bacteria and viruses. Rather, going outside and enjoying the sun would serve us well. A little sunlight would help because most of us are low in vitamin D and we need that to combat these viruses.

Lionel Mann
Lionel Mann8 years ago

Dan R.,
A good question! It's much less than one per cent worldwide, probably less than the number killed on the roads and certainly less than those killed by the murderous military. Anyway we all have to die some time.
I'm aged 82, still quite fit. I went for a five-mile walk last Friday. However all my life I have kept away from any medical premises, including hospitals, the most dangerous places on earth. Incidentally, lest anybody on this site should be encouraged to suggest any specialised life style, I eat anything edible, drink in moderation, mainly wine, gave up smoking eight years ago after having smoked twenty to thirty cigarettes daily for forty-five years, and take no limiting health precautions apart from that. Stop worrying. Much illness is psychosomatic; worry kills. Start laughing!

Marie K.
Marie K8 years ago

Over 100 years ago, when doctors were asked to wash hands more frequently and it was proven to reduce post- birth deaths significantly, they had the same reaction as the Michigan study recently. If it works, wash hands more! The government can't tell doctors not to wash hands more often and better if they want to!

Pam B.
Pamela B8 years ago

The sickest I ever was occurred immediately after giving birth to my second child. I contracted Toxic Shock Syndrome, a deadly form of staph, in the freaking hospital!

It's unconscionable that health care workers regularly practice non-compliance with common sense prevention techniques!!

Dan R.
Dan R8 years ago

This is definitely a major problem, but 99,000 deaths per year tells me nothing. What percent is that of the total deaths per year, and of the number of health care visits in a year? Another major cause of spread of disease is over-crowding, overpopulation. This is only a small part of those who will have to die per the next few years from various crises overpopulation is causing.

Nadine M.
Nadine M.8 years ago

My mother went to a surgical procedure center in Chico, CA for a routine bladder check. The doctor "accidentally" punctured her bladder and did not realize it until 3 hours later. After he fixed his mistake and since it was near closing time, he sent her home with a catheter. When she became worse at home, we took her to our local emergency room, where she found out she had left the center with a Staph infection that was not treated. She was hospitalized for several days and almost died. Luckily she survived, but had to endure several months of antibiotic for the staph infection.