Nosocomial Infections (Hospital Acquired Infections)

Nosocomial Infections (Hospital Acquired Infections)

The term “nosocomial” comes from two Greek words: “nosus” meaning “disease” + “komeion” meaning “to take care of.” Hence, “nosocomial” should apply to any disease contracted by a patient while under medical care. However, “nosocomial” has been reduced down over the years and now just refers to hospitals. It is now synonymous with hospital-acquired. These infections can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi or other agents. Well known, somewhat antibiotic resistant bacteria commonly found in hospitals are pneumonia, staphlylococci, pseudomonads, enterococci, and E.coli. Infection often begin with a surgical wound or through placement of a urinary catheter or it can simply be spread through the air. Nosocomial infections are the eighth leading cause of death in the United States and there is a five per cent rate of such infections among patients in the hospital.

Infections caught in hospitals tend to be more difficult to treat because many bacterial strains in this environment have become resistant to the many antibiotics which are used in the hospital setting. Acinetobacter baumannii, a bacterium, has recently caused some extremely drug resistant nosocomial infections in troops coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, but A. baumannii causes only about 1 per cent of all nosocomial infections in the U.S.

Approximately one third of nosocomial infections are preventable. Nosocomial infections are increased by increasing antibiotic use spurring antibiotic resistance in many bacteria making them difficult to treat, sloppy hygiene by health care personnel, and aging hospitals which have dust and debris possible leading to the spread of fungi.

You should insist on health care personnel washing their hands properly before attending to you and hospital personnel should make sure the patients also wash hands properly frequently and especially before and after eating and using the toilet. There should be a specially ventilated isolation wards for patients with highly contagious diseases such as tuberculosis. Hand washing should be encouraged by placing hand washing stations in many places around the hospitals including alcohol hand rubs. The hospital floors, walls and ceiling should be made easy to clean and disinfect. There must be more distance between patients. There must be proper disinfection and sterile procedure in the operation room. We must reduce the risk of bugs gaining access to patients via IV’s and surgical incisions. Above all, when possible stay out of hospitals.

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