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Healthcare-Associated Infections

Concerning Public Health, healthcare-associated infections are a serious matter that needs to be identified and tackled to not endanger patients’ lives.

Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), also called hospital-acquired infections, are nosocomial infections contracted by a patient which were not yet present or incubating at the time of admission. In Intensive Care Units, where serious diseases are treated, the rate of patients contracting HAIs is 1 in 10, resulting in hundreds of millions of patients around the world affected by a nosocomial infection every year. HAIs are an important problem to tackle as it represents one of the most frequent problems a patient may suffer during care delivery. So far, there is no healthcare facility or country that can claim to have solved this matter.


Causes of Healthcare Associated Infections (HAI)

 Most people that are staying in the hospital due to sickness will have a weak or compromised immune system, making them more likely to contract an infection. HAIs are about 90 percent of times caused by bacteria, with the rest due to fungus and viruses. The main bacteria involved are Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) and Escherichia coli (E. coli). Nosocomial pathogens can be transmitted through person to person, contaminated water, food or environment, infected individuals, contaminated healthcare personnel's skin or contact via shared items and surfaces. It results in prolonged hospital stays, long-term disability, increased resistance of microorganisms to antimicrobials, massive additional costs for health systems, high hospital costs for patients, as well as unnecessary deaths.


Symptoms & Treatments

Every person admitted to a healthcare facility is at risk for contracting HAIs, and the symptoms can vary from:

  • pain
  • irritation
  • discharge from a wound
  • fever
  • cough, shortness of breathing
  • burning with urination or difficulty urinating
  • headache
  • nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

Many doctors can diagnose HAIs by sight and symptoms alone, and as HAIs can lead to different diseases such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), gastroenteritis, meningitis and pneumonia it is vital for the patient to reveal to their doctor if they have any of above-mentioned symptoms. A nosocomial infection can occur up to 48 hours after hospital admission, up to 3 days after being discharged and up to 30 days after an operation.

Concerning the treatment, it will depend on the infection type of the patient. The doctor will recommend the best treatment that will typically involve a combination of antibiotics, a healthy diet, fluid intake, and bed rest. Seen the gravity of the disease HAIs can lead to, early detection and treatment are vital. Many people will likely make a full recovery with treatment, but in some cases, HAIs can dramatically increase risks creating life-threatening situations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that around 2 million people contract HAIs with 100,000 of those cases resulting in death.

Infection Prevention Control

Infection prevention control

 Seen the nature of healthcare facilities, it is not possible to completely eradicate nosocomial infections, but work can still be performed to decrease its appearance. The key is to focus on Infection Prevention Control since many infection prevention measures, including hand hygiene, are simple, low-cost and effective. 

In order for these measures to work we require staff accountability and some behavioural changes. Healthcare workers are required to follow the recommended guidelines for sterilization and disinfection, with nurses having to be on the front line of infection control. 

Healthcare workers have to carefully observe some measures as:

  • screening and identifying the type of patient needed to be isolated
  • observing hand hygiene, which involves washing or disinfecting hands, before and after touching people in the hospital
  • wearing appropriate gear, such as gloves, gowns, face protection, show and hear covers
  • cleaning surfaces properly with a recommended frequency
  • cleaning and disinfecting patient-care equipment
  • ensuring good ventilation of the patients’ rooms

The burden of HAIs is one of the key areas of work of the WHO IPC global unit in order to identify all possible risks and reduce them.

At Saraya, we have always worked to improve hygiene conditions in order to fight healthcare-associated infections, participating for years at the International Conference on Prevention & Infection Control (ICPIC). This conference offers a unique forum for participants to exchange knowledge and experience in the prevention of healthcare-associated infections and control of antimicrobial resistance around the world. It will be held in Geneva from the 10 to 13th of September this year and we will be glad to see you one more time in our booth.