Hospital Acquired Infections
The term nosocomial infection or hospital-acquired infection (HAI) refers to any clinical infection that was not present when the patient entered the hospital or another healthcare facility. These types of infections may also appear after discharge. They typically first appear between 48 hours and four days after a patient is admitted. HAI’s can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. These micro-organisms may already be present in the patient’s body or may come from the environment, contaminated hospital equipment, healthcare workers, or even other patients. These infections can occur in people of any age, from newborns to the elderly, no matter what the reason for the initial hospital stay may be.
Patients generally come to the hospital because they are unwell, or have an underlying issue being investigated. They could be receiving antibiotics or have recently undergone surgery, all of which compromise one’s immune system defense, making them more vulnerable to infection.
Therefore, it is not surprising that nosocomial infections are most prevalent in high-risk areas such as organ transplant units, cancer wards, burn wards, postoperative ward, nursery and geriatric ward. The most common types of nosocomial infections that occur in a hospital are:
- Surgical wound and other soft tissue infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Respiratory infections
About 5-10% of patients admitted to acute care hospitals and long-term care facilitates in the United States develop an HAI with an annual total of more than one million people. The CDC has shown that about 36% of these infections are preventable through the adherence to strict guidelines by healthcare workers when caring for patients such as:
- Employ an Infection Control Practitioner for every 200 beds
- Identify high-risk procedures and other possible sources of infection
- Strict adherence to hand washing
- Strict attention to aseptic (sterile) technique in the performance of procedures (use of gowns, gloves, masks)
- Sterilization of all reusable equipment and medical instruments
- Frequent changing of dressings for wounds and use of antibacterial ointments
- Isolation of patients with known infections
- Remove nasogastric (nose to stomach) and endotracheal (mouth to south) tubes as soon as possible
Health Advocates are conscious of this problem and seek to prevent further setbacks for patients through education and monitoring.