The battle against hospital-acquired infections

When you go to the hospital, you expect safe care, helpful staff, and a clean environment. You don’t expect to get sick, much less from a harmful infection going around among patients.

Theoretically, you should not be able to get a hospital-acquired infection if the hospital is taking the proper precautions. However, this simple expectation may not always be the case.

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Some hospitals actually spend a lot of time, energy and money on getting rid of hospital-acquired infections. For instance, doctors and staff in England have been battling a hardy Japanese fungus called Candida auris in their hospitals since 2013. According to BBC News, this fungus has been showing resistance against commonly prescribed medicines, a problem undoubtedly caused by the overuse of antibiotics.

At the same time, England knows that this infection and the cause of its spreading is a problem. Some 20 separate hospitals have experienced outbreaks this year, and over 30 more have seen cases of infection.

To make matters worse, a few outbreaks have occurred in which hospitals had trouble controlling the fungal infection from spreading. However, according to Public Health England, these outbreaks have been officially declared over.

Spotting Candida Auris

One of the reasons that Candida auris can spread so easily is that this type of fungus actually lives on the skin as well as in the body. Hospitals in the UK have reported the infection’s spread within a few hours from initial contact.

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Since it does spread so quickly, researchers think that the fungus must be transferred through physical contact. This conclusion also means that hospital staff may not always be properly disinfecting themselves and their equipment.

In addition, another reason that this infection can spread easily is that patients don’t always show symptoms. In England’s case, most doctors were diagnosing patients through screenings rather than symptom checks. These screenings include the doctors performing tests on several swabs from a patient’s body.

If a patient does show signs of infection, the infection is likely more severe. Symptoms include an infection that does not respond to common antifungal treatment, fever, chills, and sepsis (infection of the blood). Thankfully, only a handful of patients have suffered from sepsis in England, and none have died from the infection.

Hospital-Acquired Infections

Although this problem has declined in recent years, getting an infection while in the hospital happens more often than doctors would care to admit. According to the CDC, 1 out of every 25 patients gets some type of infection related to their hospital care.

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Because the number of hospital infections is so high, doctors, hospital staff, and patients should make strides to prevent infection from happening. As the patient, you can bring your own antibacterial wipes to use on areas that often get touched. Wipe down bed rails, remote controls, and any tables that you may be using.

Then, take notice of whether medical staff are washing up before handling your care. You may find it uncomfortable at first, but you should always ask the staff to wash their hands if they haven’t already done so.

These caring professionals most likely have plans to wash up anyway, but they may get sidetracked by their duties. Reminding them to wash their hands could save you from a serious illness.

Finally, make sure to ask plenty of questions if your doctor prescribes an antibiotic. You can talk through whether the medicine is just a precaution or necessary for your situation.

If you do need medicine, ask whether there are any other options that you can explore first. Not only do antibiotics cause resistance in certain infections, but they also get rid of good bacteria in your body. Using a little extra precaution and working with your doctor, you can reduce the risk for an infection.

This article first appeared on AskDrManny.com.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.