According to new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 25 patients in U.S. hospitals came down with an infection while in care units in 2011.
In the last decade, these antibiotic-resistant infections have become increasingly prevalent. Patients acquired around 721,800 infections at hospitals that year. Of those, about 75,000 died, according to the CDC.
The report comes after a swarm of news stories have detailed the rise in what experts have called “superbugs.” This type of bacteria carries genes that enable them to survive against widely used antibiotics. Basically, these superbugs no longer respond to oral antibiotics.
“Even though we’ve had great success nationally, there still are pockets of hospitals that have rates of infection that are several times the national average,” Dr. Peter Pronovost, director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine, told CNN.
The recent statistic is particularly scary, as hospitals are generally considered a place where patients go to improve their conditions, not the opposite.
As you know, a healthy body is inextricably linked to a healthy mouth. So, what happens to your immune system – including these infections – can impact the health of your mouth, leading to halitosis, among other things.
The biggest culprit on the list of pathogens acquired in hospitals is the bacterium clostridium difficile, commonly known as c. diffe. Another common infection is methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MSRA), a staph infection.
“The reality is that oftentimes there’s very little that’s being done about it,” Pronovost said to the source. “There’s no accountability for a hospital that has very high infection rates, and my sense is, there absolutely needs to be.”
The most common superbug infections in the U.S. are pneumonia (22 percent), surgical site infections (22 percent), gastrointestinal infections (17 percent), urinary tract infections (13 percent) and bloodstream infections (10 percent).
The research, published on March 26 in the New England Journal of Medicine, is one of the CDC’s most comprehensive studies on the prevalent and potentially lethal health care problem.
How to avoid it
Wash your hands consistently. Victoria Nahum, executive director of the Safe Care Campaign, urged hospital patients to partake in “compulsive hand hygiene” and other best practices like staying diligent on oral health for kids. Antibiotic-resistant superbugs mean patients will have to overcome the fear of questioning their doctor or nurse about their sanitation and hand-washing habits.