One in 25 U.S. hospital patients has caught an infection while in the hospital, according to new federal data. Patients acquired some 721,800 infections at hospitals in 2011, according to the research. Of those infected, about 75,000 died, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — although the study did not investigate how often an infection actually caused or contributed to the patient’s death.Pneumonia and surgical-site infections were the most common types of infection — each accounting for about 22% of all infections — followed by gastrointestinal infections such as Clostridium difficile, urinary tract infections and infections of the bloodstream.
The CDC issued two reports, one based on a 2011 survey of hospitals in 10 states and another from a yearly check on progress in fighting hospital-acquired infections. Although there has been some progress, today and every day, more than 200 Americans with healthcare-associated infections will die during their hospital stay. The causes are well known. Hands that are not properly washed, equipment that’s not properly disinfected or that’s kept in place for too long, and overuse of antibiotics all contribute. The report sounds the alarm about the threats that we need to be addressing. They include infections of the lungs and guts, and point to a range of bacteria from Clostridium difficile, which causes often fatal diarrhea, to methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). These infections can progress in the blink of an eye.
The solutions are also often clear. Some require hospital procedures, such as super-careful, super sterile conditions, and clear guidelines on inserting tubes, and washing and re-washing hands.
Patients can also play a role. Ask questions. œ’Have you washed your hands? Bring a friend to be the œbad cop asking nurses, doctors and hygienists the hard questions. And in daily life, plenty of soap and water is one of the best prevention measures.
It’s a national crisis and although the numbers suggest there are some improvements, it’s not nearly enough. You go to the hospital hoping to get better. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.