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What you should know about hospital-acquired infections

People go to hospitals in Pennsylvania expecting to benefit from treatments, but unfortunately, preventable, harmful medical events happen to many patients every day. Hospital-acquired infections are among the most prevalent, affecting hundreds of thousands of people each year. Many thousands even prove to be fatal. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were approximately 75,000 hospital patients with HAIs who died in 2011. The Pennsylvania Department of Health reports that in America, these infections are included in the top causes of death.

What are HAIs?

Infections can affect any part of the body, and some are much more likely to cause death than others. For example, people with pneumonia have a higher risk than those with skin infections. Other types of infections that must be reported by all hospitals in Pennsylvania include the following:

  • Surgical site infection
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Gastrointestinal infection
  • Infections of the bones and joints
  • Ear, nose, eye and throat infections
  • Blood stream infection

The top three infections in the state occur at surgical sites and in urinary tracts and digestive systems. People may also develop infections in the cardiovascular and central nervous systems and the reproductive tract. Certain factors, such as the presence of a catheter, ventilator or central line, increase patients' risks of developing an infection.

What causes HAIs?

Healthline reports that the lack of proper hand washing techniques is responsible for approximately 40 percent of infections acquired at hospitals. Providers can spread viruses, bacteria and other pathogens from one patient to the next on their hands and clothes. Visitors and mobile patients also contribute to the spread of disease in health care facilities.

Patients who have undergone surgeries and other invasive procedures are at an increased risk of contracting an infection.

How can HAIs be prevented?

Since these infections are preventable, it should follow that hospitals are taking steps to inhibit them from happening. According to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, hospitals are encouraged to establish protocols and train everyone who interacts with patients, including visitors and the patients themselves as well as health care providers and other staff.

Measures such as up-to-date vaccinations and proper hand washing techniques are simple and effective keys to reducing risk, as well as professional training in the use of catheters and other medical devices associated with infection.

People who experience greater harm during a stay at the hospital due to medical negligence often choose to hire an attorney to assist them in holding the responsible parties liable for the pain and suffering, increased medical expenses and other damages.

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