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Silent Killer: Hospital Infections Affect 1 in 20 Patients
Dangerous infections are one of the most insidious threats in American hospitals. Their biggest cause? Poor hygiene on the part of doctors and nurses.

When most people are admitted to the hospital, their primary concern is getting better and going home. To that end, a lot of people worry that their surgeries will not be successful, or that their doctors will make a diagnostic mistake or medication error. Most aren’t aware that a silent killer is lurking in the background.

Unfortunately, hospital-based infections are a huge problem in American medical facilities. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1 in 20 hospitalized patients will develop an infection during their stay. These infections kill up to 98,000 Americans annually.

This data is troubling, especially considering that the vast majority of hospital-based infections are preventable.

The most common cause of infection is poor hygiene on the part of doctors, nurses and other hospital staff. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that only between 40 and 60 percent of health care workers practiced good hand hygiene on a regular basis. Nurses tend to do better than doctors, but hand-washing rates are still lower than they should be across all medical professions.

For years, hospitals have been trying to find ways to get their staffs to practice better hygiene. It appears that shame may work better than incentive. One hospital was able to achieve near 100 percent compliance after it took a picture of a bacterial culture from a doctor’s hand and made it the screen saver on every computer in the building.

New Jersey Hospital Infections

Although hospital infections are certainly a problem in New Jersey, the state tends to do better than the national average.

Still, reducing infection rates is a key initiative for state public health officials. Representatives from the state Department of Health, along with leaders from New Jersey’s largest hospitals, have often stated publicly that their goal is to bring infection rates down to zero.

While this is certainly an admirable effort, it will not happen unless there is a dramatic change in culture in our health care facilities. In the meantime, too many New Jersey patients suffer because of lax hygiene standards.

If you or a loved one contracted a hospital-based infection, you may have legal recourse to recover for the harm that was done. Talk to a New Jersey medical malpractice lawyer who can evaluate your case and help you understand your rights.

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