Written by Dr. Page McNall

You think you go to the hospital to get well but many patients end up with infections they catch in hospitals. Even healthcare facilities, whether hospitals, nursing homes or outpatient departments can be a dangerous place for acquiring infections. It has been estimated that about 5 to 10 percent of patients admitted to acute care hospitals and long-term care facilities in the United States develop a hospital acquired or Nosocomial infection.

What are Hospital Acquired or Nosocomial Infections?

Health care acquired infections, also known as Nosocomial infections, are infections that patients get while receiving treatment for medical or surgical conditions. This includes infections acquired by patients in the hospital or facility but appearing after discharge, and occupational infections among staff. At any given time, about 1 in every 20 patients has an infection related to hospital care. In 2002, the National Nosocomial Infections Surveillance (NNIS) estimated that approximately 1.7 million cases of hospital acquired infections (HAIs) and 99,000 associated deaths occurred in U.S. hospitals, leading to extra costs of up to $6.5 billion each year.

Some of the factors that put patients at risk of infection in health-care settings include prolong and inappropriate use of invasive devices and antibiotics, high risk and sophisticated procedures, contamination of the healthcare environment, transmission of communicable diseases between patients and health care workers, and the use of indwelling medical devices like urinary catheter, endotracheal tube etc. The elderly people, children, pregnant women and those with compromised immune system are more susceptible to develop these infections.

Cycle of infection

In order for HAIs to occur, a series of events must happen. This is called the cycle or chain of infection. There are basically six links in the chain of transmission, and in order to prevent HAIs, our goal is to break the chain and stop them from occurring.

The infectious agent (bacteria, virus or any other pathogen) stays in a reservoir and reproduces in such a manner that it can be transmitted. A reservoir could be animals, insect, soil, food, water or people. The infectious agent spreads the infection through various portals of exits such as excretions and secretions, draining wounds, coughing and sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea and stool and through mucus membranes. The modes of transmission can be contact transmission, airborne transmission or droplet transmission.

What steps need to be taken to prevent Hospital Acquired or Nosocomial Infections?

Hospital acquired infections are a huge problem being tackled by Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) among other agencies. Apart from prolonging patients’ stay in hospitals, they may cause permanent disability and even death. According to an estimate from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nosocomial infections generate costs of over five billion per year. The US Department of Health and Human Services has established a team of committee that comprises of scientists and program officials, who take necessary steps to prevent and control Hospital Acquired or Nosocomial Infections.

Some of the steps that can be taken are appropriate hand hygiene, correct application of basic precautions during invasive procedures, awareness about signs and symptoms of infection in patients, and proper surveillance of hospital infection control staff members, as they are responsible for overseeing the proper cleaning, storage and handling of supplies and equipment.

This blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or to prevent going to hospitals, clinic or other credentialed health setting. This blog is for information purpose only and we encourage you to learn more about Hospital acquired or Nosocomial Infections from the CDC http://www.cdc.gov/hai/ which this blog post is not affiliated or associated with.  As always, please consult your healthcare provider if you have any health concerns and certainly before starting a treatment program.