Hospital acquired infections are presenting health care professionals with a new danger, affecting their efforts to provide safe patient care. Hospital acquired infections (HDIs or HAIs), otherwise known as nosocomial infections, are diseases contracted while a patient is in a health care facility. These infections can originate from the outside environment, an ill patient, or even a healthcare provider. HDIs are particularly dangerous as they usually strike a host while one’s immune system is compromised, leading to serious complications or even death. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 8.7% of all hospital patients developed these infections, creating a health crisis for 1.4 million individuals worldwide.
Recently, researchers made efforts to discover the prevalence of hospital acquired infections among local patients. Results from a 2014 project, The HAI Prevalence Survey, evaluated the presence of HDIs in American hospitals, and their impact on hospital manpower. Out of the 11,282 patients that participated, microbial infections were detected in 452 individuals, creating an infection rate of roughly 4%. Although this figure lay below the WHO average, the study revealed the specific pathogens that were most likely to infect hospital patients. Pneumonia, on-site infections, UTIs, and infections of the bloodstream were the most commonly reported ailments, falling in line with national estimates. Similarly, the Center for Disease Control calculated that there were an estimated 722,000 unique cases of HDIs in U.S. hospitals alone, with pneumonia accounting for approximately one-fifth of all infections.
Although hospital acquired infections appear to present a sizable threat to the healthcare industry worldwide, various steps can be taken to decrease the likelihood of infection. By simply making health care providers familiar with the signs of serious infection following invasive surgeries, the rate of HDI infection was shown to decrease by 70 percent. Proper sterilization of hospital wards and rooms also aids in reducing the spread of illness. Additionally, more revolutionary techniques have been adopted to combat HDIs through “natural” means. In Turkey, high school student Bora Cetin examined the medical properties of the local Mastic tree. Cetin discovered that the tree itself contained an anti-microbial substance that could be used to kill staph bacteria. With this recent discovery, researchers obtained evidence that natural defenses could used to kill dangerous strains of bacteria.
Despite these promising developments, hospital acquired infections continue to pose a risk to both patients and providers. Ultimately, a coordinated effort by all those involved in health care will be required in order to win the battle against this silent killer.
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Edited by: Ruby Halfacre and Naomi D’Arbell