Health Care Associated Infections

In the US, between 5 to 10% of people who are admitted to hospitals will become infected with healthcare-associated infections (HAI). Healthcare-associated infections is a very broad term covering infections by many types of organisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. This is not to say that hospitals are the only places people can get healthcare-associated infections. Other healthcare facilities are also habitats for these organisms, including nursing homes, clinics, doctor and dental offices, laboratories, etc. An HAI can be characterized as an infection that becomes evident after 48 hours of being admitted to a health care facility without being present (noticeable with an initial diagnosis or incubating upon admission to a facility) beforehand. An HAI can also be characterized as a clinical deterioration that is not associated with the initial diagnosis. HAIs are costly as they increase the length of time one must be in the hospital, and they increase the costs of treating the patient. They increase the length of time it takes a person to heal. HAI can also be deadly.

Healthcare-associated infections can be local or systemic. Organisms might infect a surgical wound site only (local) or they can be introduced to the bloodstream and travel throughout the body (systemic). The three most common sites of HAI are the blood, the respiratory system, and the urinary tract. Transferal of infectious pathogens can happen via contaminated medical devices and tools, infected blood products, infected people (staff or visitors), infected food, and contaminated rooms and furniture. However, contact with contaminated items does not necessarily mean one will acquire an infection.  

Certain conditions make a person more at risk for HAI, and these include:

  • The severity of the illness that put one in the hospital in the first place (already having an illness weakens one’s immune system to a certain extent).
  • Persons with already compromised immune systems (persons with HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, or persons who are pregnant, undergoing dialysis, cancer treatments, or post-transplant).
  • The length of time one has to stay in the hospital.
  • The age of the person (the elderly and premature, low birth weight babies).
  • Wounds (surgical, accidental).
  • The biggest risk factor for acquiring healthcare-associated infections is the use of invasive therapies including endotracheal intubation, intravascular lines (also known as IVs), and urinary catheters.

The following is a list of four common sites infected by healthcare-associated infections and the most common micro-culprits in residence.

  1. Healthcare-associated pathogens that can infect the bloodstream are coagulase-negative Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Staphylococcus aureus, and Candida albicans. 
  2. Pathogens that can infect the respiratory system are Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus, and Haemophilus influenza. 
  3. Pathogens that can infect the urinary tract are Escherichia coli, Candida albicans, and Staphylococcus aureus. 
  4. Healthcare-associated pathogens that can infect wound sites are Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and coagulase-negative Staphylococcus.

The bacteria that is in the news most lately in association with hospital-acquired infections is known as MRSA (pronounced “M.R.S.A.” but often heard said as one word like “mersa” or “mursa”). MRSA is the acronym for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. This form of Staph infection and a couple of other bacteria have developed resistance to antibiotics over the last several decades and are also known as “Super Bugs.”

If you or a family member contracted an infection from a healthcare facility that complicated the healing process or caused a death, you may be eligible for damages.

Please contact the Sweeney Law Firm. Let our medical experts review the facts to determine if you have a medical malpractice case. The Sweeney Law firm reviews possible medical malpractice cases at no charge and works on a contingency fee basis. There is no cost for representation unless there is a cash recovery for you.