New CDC Report Finds 1 in 25 Adult Patients Acquires an Infection While in the Hospital

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that found one in 25 adult patients, or 4% of hospital inpatients, suffers from an infection acquired after entering the hospital. According to the 2011 study, hospital-acquired infections, or HAI’s, affect approximately 648,000 patients each year with approximately 74,000 patients fighting more than one HAI, bringing the total number of hospital-acquired infections to around 721,800 annually.

The 2011 study, originally conducted by CDC physician Dr. Shelley S. Magill, evaluated 11,282 patients in 183 hospitals in 10 different states. The report does not include adult patients infected in nursing homes, long-term care facilities, rehabilitation facilities, emergency rooms or outpatient facilities. If all healthcare facilities were included in the study, the number of infected patients would obviously be higher although there is no way to determine the extent of infection because there is no national database for hospital-acquired infections.

The news is worse for residents of Kentucky and Indiana. The CDC study found that Kentucky and Indiana hospitals have an even higher rate of infection than that found nationally.

The study found the most common type of hospital-acquired infections include:

  • Pneumonia and infections at the surgical site account for 22% each;
  • Intestinal illness was found in 17% of cases;
  • Urinary tract infections were responsible for 13% of infections; and
  • Bloodstream infections total 10%

C. Diff (Clostridium difficile) was found to be the most frequent bacterium causing hospital-acquired infections and this anti-biotic resistant “superbug” accounts for approximately 14,000 deaths each year in the United States.

Although this rate of infection is not comforting for hospitalized adults, CDC officials are encouraged because patients fighting HAI’s seems to be trending down from an estimated 2.1 million patients in the 1970’s, to 1.7 million from 1990 through 2002, to approximately 648,000 patients in 2011.

Even though hospitals can be unsanitary due to the increased number of people with illnesses, there are things you can do to increase the odds in your favor against a hospital-acquired infection:

  • Always wash your hands and insist that doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers with whom you interact do the same before examining or treating you or your loved one.
  • Be vigilant for signs of infection: seeping wounds, inflammation, unusual pain or tenderness, redness or heat at a surgical site are all signs of infection.
  • Make sure surgical sites, any other wounds, and catheters are dry and clean at all times.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up and to ask questions. Many patients fall victim to medical negligence or incompetence by trying to be polite.
  • Have a family member or friend with you to advocate on your behalf in case you are unable to do so.