Infection Control Top Concern for Hospitals

Hosptials around the country are looking for new and improved methods of controlling infection.

In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The study showed that an estimated 44,000 to 98,000 Americans die each year from hospital-acquired infections. These infections cost the nation's healthcare system $17-$29 billion annually.

There are three areas of the body most prone to infection: urinary tract, respiratory tract, and bloodstream.

The largest cause of infection is bacteria. Often, bacteria that lives on a patient's skin is forced internally by a respirator tube, catheter, or endotracheal tube.

Hospitals are starting from the beginning by teaching their employees how to wash their hands properly. Healthcare workers are reminded to wash calluses longer, sterilize their hands between patients, use antibacterial soap for three to five minutes, and to use antibacterial hand gels.

Surgical gloves are not guaranteed to stop infections. Often microscopic tears transfer bacteria, only making hand washing more important. Employees are being instructed to not rely solely on gloves. Healthcare workers are also warned about bacteria breeding grounds, such as lotion pump bottles and artificial nails.

Yet doctors are reminding patients that ultimately, their health is in their hands. Patients with high-risk conditions for getting infections include diabetics, smokers, and those who are obese.

New technology is helping healthcare workers prevent infection. Clippers are now used for removing body hair because razors left microscopic cuts, allowing bacteria into the bloodstream. Doctors are using antibacterial wash on surgery sites to eliminate bacteria on the skin before surgery. Silver-impregnated catheters and silver-laced dressings are also being tested. Silver is naturally antibacterial. Antibacterial-coated catheters are also being considered.

Most hospital staff realize that the fight against infection is infinite, however on-site infection control teams are working around the clock to find new methods of controlling the problem.

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