Hospital-acquired Infections: Types, Causes, and Prevention

Hospital-acquired Infections: Types, Causes, and Prevention

Popularly known as a nosocomial infection, Hospital-acquired Infections (HAI) are contracted through microbes existing in certain specific locations in hospitals. The breeding ground for such infections can also be nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, the healthcare staff, susceptible patients, contaminated equipment and devices, bed linens, air droplets, and contaminated food and water.  About 1 in 10 people admitted to a hospital pick up HAIs, which if not treated increases morbidity or mortality rate in the facility. People developing HAI end up spending 2.5 times longer time in the hospital, with the need to bear additional costs.

Hospital-acquired infections are most common in the ICUs. Especially in pediatric ICUs, the rate of contracting an HAI is at a probability of 6.1-29.6%.

Common types of HAIs

The most common Hospital infections are

  • UTIs
  • Surgical Site Infections
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Meningitis
  • Pneumonia

Symptoms of Hospital-acquired Infections (HAI)

HAIs may occur in the period up to 48 hours after admission to the hospital,  up to 3 days post-discharge, or up to 1 month after an operation. The prime symptoms of HAIs are:

  1. Fever
  2. Wound Discharge
  3. Pain and irritation at the infection site
  4. Diarrhea
  5. Nausea, vomiting, or headache
  6. Burning while urinating
  7. Cough or shortness of breath

Did You Know? For every 300 people undergoing operations, approximately 11% of them develop HAI.

What causes HAIs? 

Nosocomial infections are mainly caused by microbes. Although bacteria are behind 90% of HAIs, these infections can be caused by fungi or viruses too. The bacteria most commonly responsible for HAIs are Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa), Enterococci, and Escherichia coli (E. coli). HAIs usually transmit via person-to-person contact owing to unclean hands, or poorly sterilized/sanitized medical instruments such as catheters, respiratory machines, and other hospital equipment.

The risks of HAI are higher in cases such as

  • People above 70 years of age
  • Prolonged stay in ICUs
  • People with compromised immune systems
  • Extended use of Urinary Catheters

Diagnosis and Prevention of Hospital-acquired Infections

Hospitals and healthcare staff plays a huge role in reducing nosocomial infections. Taking necessary actions to prevent HAIs can decrease your risk of transmission by 70%.

Some general measures to note for nosocomial infection control are as follows:

  • Proper Hand Hygiene:  Every staff in a healthcare facility as well as the patients admitted must follow handwashing protocols before and after touching others in the same facility.
  • Personal Hygiene: The practice and use of personal hygiene solutions such as waterless hygiene products, and applying infection-prevention lotions.
  • Protective gear: Wearing appropriate gear such as gloves, gowns, and face protective masks and shields can also help minimalize Hospital-acquired infections.
  • Surface Cleanliness: Cleaning high-touch surfaces such as floors, glasses, medical equipment, etc. thoroughly with surface disinfectants.
  • Well-ventilated rooms: Toxic, stagnant air can also be a cause for microbial multiplication in a facility. Well-ventilated rooms are a must to ensure that HAIs do not occur.

For a diagnosis of the type of HAI in a person, the healthcare provider must check for inflammation or rash on the site of infection or schedule for a blood or urine test.


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