Hospitals should be places sick people go to get healthy. Unfortunately, many people sustain serious or life-threatening infections in hospitals often due to mistakes made by doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.
Consumer Reports recently analyzed hospitals nationwide and discovered a disturbing trend among many hospitals. Antibiotics normally used to treat infections are actually part of the problem and often make mild infections worse, according to the Consumer Reports article.
Specifically, due to widespread and often inappropriate use of antibiotics by many hospitals, certain types of harmful bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics. As a result, some bacteria turn into "superbugs" or CRE, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to USA Today.
How dangerous are hospital infections?
Hospital infections are a serious epidemic nationwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 648,000 people develop infections while patients in hospitals.
Of the people who develop a hospital infection, 75,000 people die every year due to hospital infections, the CDC reports. To put that number in perspective, that's more than twice the number of people who die every year in auto accidents nationwide.
As for New York State, hospital infections also remain a serious problem. In 2013, a total of 28,302 people developed an infection while a patient in a New York hospital, according to data compiled by the New York State Department of Health.
What are common hospital infections?
Two of the most common hospital infections include MRSA and C. diff infections. "Hospitals can be hot spots for infections and can sometimes amplify spread," said Tom Frieden, M.D., director of the CDC, according to the Consumer Reports article. "Patients with serious infections are near sick and vulnerable patients-all cared for by the same health care workers sometimes using shared equipment."
MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. MRSA infections often develop due to bacteria resistant to antibiotics used to treat ordinary staph infections, according to the Mayo Clinic. MRSA infects more than 60,000 people each year and kills more 8,000 annually, according to Consumer Reports.
C. diff refers to Clostridium difficile or C. difficile, a form of bacteria that often causes severe diarrhea or life-threatening inflammation of the colon often due to improper use of antibiotics, according to the Mayo Clinic. C. diff infections affect more than 290,000 people each year and result in more than 27,000 fatalities, according to Consumer Reports.
What can I do to prevent getting a hospital infection?
Don't simply take a doctor's or nurse's word when they prescribe an antibiotic. Be your own best advocate. Ask them questions. Find out more information about such drugs and your medical condition before agreeing to take such drugs.
In addition, find out exactly why you're being prescribed this drug and exactly what drug it is, how long you should take this antibiotic and if there any severe, long-term side effects often associated with taking such powerful antibiotics.
"Hospitals need to stop infecting their patients," said Dr. Doris Peter, director of the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center, according to the Consumer Reports article. "Until they do, patients need to be on high alert whenever they enter a hospital, even as visitors."