Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) are as the name suggests resultant from a visit to a medical centre. The microbial ecology of hospitals, surgical centres, and nursing care facilities is such that there is a high concentration of microbes and as these premises are regularly treated there is also a concentration of robust germs that have evaded being neutralized or killed.
Among the most problematic germs are: P. aeruginosa, C. difficile, E. coli, and S. aureus are among the most common bacterial culprits, but any germ can become prominent and aggressive in a healthcare facility. The prevalence rates among hospitals has been reported to vary from 3% to 21%. The greatest chance (>13%) of contracting an HAI occurs when a patient undergoes an invasive medical diagnostic procedure or when a medical prosthesis or medical device is inserted into the patient. Children and the elderly are most at risk.
HAIs in general present within a matter of days from the hospital visit, however some infections may take longer. C.difficile infections may develop up to 28 days following discharge from hospital, and surgical site infections may develop up to 30 – 365 days following date of surgery. Prevalence statistics may therefore show only the tip of the iceberg.
Most common HAI types include: Pneumonia, surgical site infections, urinary tract infections, bloodstream infections, gastrointestinal infections, skin & soft tissue infections.
Vigilance and prevention, and particularly the consistent use of basic hygiene methods and protocols is key to lowering the incidence and prevalence of HAIs.