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The risk of contracting a hospital-acquired infection

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that on any given day in the United States, roughly 1 in 25 patients in a hospital will contract one of many healthcare-associated infections. In Massachusetts and across the country, people may enter a medical facility in need of help for an injury or illness but wind up needing additional treatment for conditions such as the following:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Surgical site infections
  • Pneumonia
  • Gastrointestinal illness
  • Bloodstream infections

According to a CDC survey, the most prevalent of these are pneumonia and infections at the site of surgery. These situations occur because pathogens easily spread through the body, especially among patients whose immune systems may already be compromised. The germs are contracted due to poor conditions at the facility, staff not following procedure or patients interacting with each other.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has launched an effort to prevent healthcare-acquired infections through increasing investment in research and enrolling facilities in the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network. The DHHS also notes that the U.S. Congress has made funding available on a state-level to increase infrastructure and prevent these worsened conditions from occurring.

The Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths recommends that patients ask hospital staff and visitors to clean their hands before any interaction. Additionally, people who need to have surgery can look up physicians who have a low infection rate and ask to be kept warm during the procedure, as studies have shown that patients who are cold are more prone to contracting an infection.

Unfortunately, even the most diligent patients are still at risk of infection. Medical facilities must do a better job of sanitizing equipment and following federal recommendations for lowering the prevalence of hospital-acquired diseases. 

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