Two new reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that one in 25 hospital patients catches a hospital-related infection during their stay.
The CDC reports released on Wednesday point to a national crisis: more than 700,000 people were infected in 2011. One report is based on a 2011 survey of hospitals in 10 states, and the other is from a yearly assessment of progress in fighting hospital-acquired infections, NBC’s Today show reports. Dr. Michael Bell of the CDC told reporters, “You go to the hospital hoping to get better,” but that may not happen.
Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said there has been progress in reducing infections, but “today and every day, more than 200 Americans with healthcare-associated infections will die during their hospital stay.” Improper hand washing, equipment that’s not properly disinfected or is left in place too long, and overuse of antibiotics all contribute to the spread of infections, according to Today. A number of bacteria are responsible for hospital infections; two notable ones are Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which can cause fatal diarrhea, to methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). A seemingly minor infection can progress with astonishing speed, Bell warns. “You think you have a trivial infection of the bladder, and the next thing you’re fighting for your life.”
Bell notes that reductions in infections can be achieved through improved hospital procedures – super-sterile conditions and clear guidelines on such matters as inserting tubes. But hand washing is critical, Bell said, and patients can play an important role in their own safety by reminding doctors, nurses, and technicians about cleaning their hands, according to Today. Patients need to ask all caregivers who enter the room if they have washed their hands. “You can ask it in a nice way,” Bell said. Whether in or out of the hospital, hand washing is key in preventing illness. Bell wants people to focus on “keep[ing] their hands clean at all times, and especially in healthcare settings.”