The environmental hygiene in preventing Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAIs) has become a hot topic for discussion these days. A hospital-acquired infection, abbreviated as HAI, is usually one that first appears three days after a patient is admitted to a hospital or other healthcare facility. Infections acquired in a hospital are also called nosocomial infections. It has been widely accepted that the bulk of HAIs are the result of transmission from one patient to another via contaminated hands of caregivers or contaminated equipment that has been used on patients sequentially.
About 5-10% of patients admitted to hospitals throughout the world develop a nosocomial infection. That means about 7 million people got infected every year when they think they are getting well in a hospital. The good thing is – about 25% of these infections can be prevented by healthcare workers taking proper precautions when caring for patients, proper sterilization of surgical instruments, and of course, by keeping the cleanliness in hospitals. Before moving for the preventions to stop Hospital-Acquired Infections, it would be better to have a brief study on their causes, symptoms, modes of transmission, types and risk factors.
Causes & Symptoms:
Hospital-acquired infections are generally caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. These microorganisms may already be present in the patient’s body, contaminated hospital equipment, healthcare workers, or may come from the environment. An infection may start in any part of the body depending on the causal agents involved. A localized infection is limited to a specific part of the body and has local symptoms. For example, if a surgical wound in the abdomen becomes infected, the area around the wound becomes red, hot, and painful. A generalized infection is one that enters the bloodstream and causes general systemic symptoms such as fever, chills, low blood pressure, or mental confusion.
Modes & Types of Infections:
Normally, hospital-acquired infections may develop from Urinary bladder catheterization, Respiratory procedures, surgery and wounds, and intravenous (IV) procedures. The most common types of hospital-acquired infections are urinary tract infections (UTIs), pneumonia, and surgical wound infections. Other infections may be caused by using hospital toilets that have not been cleaned up properly. If not taken seriously, these common infections may result in serious conditions leading to HIV and AIDS, Hepatitis A, B, and C, Tuberculosis, Ebola, Gastrointestinal infections, Marburg Virus, Acute Pneumonia, Crutzfeldt Jakob Disease, as well as other threatening diseases.
All hospitalized patients are susceptible to contracting a nosocomial infection. Some patients are more likely to get an infection like – young children, the aged, and persons with compromised immune systems. Other risk factors for getting a hospital-acquired infection are – a long hospital stay, use of indwelling catheters, the failure of health care workers, inadequate sterilization in hand-washing, and overuse of antibiotics.
Regular hand-wash with a good disinfectant is a great way to maintain personal hygiene in order to prevent oral infections. Besides this, hospital staff should make sure that patients do not come into contact with contagious pathogens carried by other patients. Doctors and nurses should always use new, clean gloves as well as face masks and other sanitary devices when necessary. Also, these medical professionals should never, ever use unsterilized equipment on patients – especially used needles.
Also, technology is also playing a great role in preventing hospital-acquired infections. Special new robots have been developed and tested in a hospital in Minnesota, U.S.A., that use pulsed xenon ultraviolet light to kill resistant pathogens including staph bacteria, MRSA and C. diff, which can be dangerous or even deadly. These Xenex robots will help reduce the HAI contraction risk by 50 to 90 percent.