Health Care Associated Infections: What You Need To Know
What Are Health Care Associated Infections?
Health care associated infections (HAIs) are infections that occur when a patient receives medical or surgical care. These infections can be caused by a wide range of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. HAIs can be acquired in any health care setting, including hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, and long-term care facilities. In some cases, the infection may be acquired in the community and spread to other patients in the health care setting.
HAIs can have serious consequences for patients, such as increased risk of death, longer hospital stays, and increased medical costs. It is estimated that HAIs affect one out of every 25 hospitalized patients in the United States and are responsible for over 90,000 deaths each year. HAIs can also lead to antibiotic resistance, which can make it difficult to treat infections.
Types of Health Care Associated Infections
There are a variety of different HAIs that can affect patients. These include:
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Respiratory infections, such as pneumonia
- Bloodstream infections (BSIs)
- Surgical site infections
- Gastrointestinal infections, such as Clostridium difficile (C. diff)
- Skin and soft tissue infections, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
The most common type of HAI is a urinary tract infection (UTI). UTIs can occur when bacteria enter the bladder or urinary tract and cause an infection. Other types of HAIs, such as bloodstream infections, can be more serious and can spread to other parts of the body.
How Can Health Care Associated Infections Be Prevented?
Health care providers can take steps to reduce the risk of HAIs in their patients. These steps include:
- Hand hygiene - Health care providers should practice proper hand hygiene at all times. This includes washing hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after each patient contact.
- Use of personal protective equipment (PPE) - Health care providers should wear gloves, masks, and other PPE when caring for patients. This helps to reduce the spread of germs from one person to another.
- Infection control practices - Health care providers should take steps to prevent the spread of infections in their facility. This includes proper sterilization and disinfection of equipment, and proper disposal of contaminated materials.
- Patient education - Health care providers should educate patients on how to reduce their risk of getting an HAI. This includes teaching patients proper hand hygiene, use of PPE, and other infection prevention measures.
- Vaccination - Vaccines can reduce the risk of certain HAIs, such as pneumococcal pneumonia and influenza.
What Are the Symptoms of Health Care Associated Infections?
The symptoms of HAIs vary depending on the type of infection. Common symptoms of HAIs include:
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain or tenderness at the site of infection
- Redness or swelling at the site of infection
If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention right away. Early diagnosis and treatment of HAIs can help to reduce the risk of serious complications.
Health care associated infections are a serious problem that can have serious consequences for patients. It is important for health care providers to take steps to reduce the risk of HAIs, such as proper hand hygiene, use of PPE, and infection control practices. Patients should also take steps to reduce their risk of getting an HAI, such as practicing good hand hygiene and getting vaccinated against certain infections. If you or a loved one experience any of the symptoms of an HAI, it is important to seek medical attention right away.