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Hospital-Acquired Infections

We go to the hospital when we have a serious medical condition, and the last thing we expect is to come out sicker than we came in. Unfortunately, some of the deadliest and most drug-resistant viruses and bacteria can be found in hospitals, putting patients at risk of serious hospital-acquired infections when they are already in a weakened state. Hospital staff and administrators have a duty to practice reasonable safety procedures to prevent the spread of infection. When a hospital’s failure to meet acceptable standards of sanitation and hygiene leads to a serious infection such as MRSA or C. diff., they can be held liable for the damages caused. The attorneys at the Slechter Law Firm in Louisville come to the aid of injured patients and hold hospitals accountable for the harm caused by their negligence.

Causes of Hospital-Acquired Infections

Hospital-acquired infections, also called nosocomial infections, have been noted as a leading cause of morbidity and mortality (disease and death) worldwide. It has been found that around ten percent of hospital patients acquire an infection during a hospital stay, and the rate is double for patients who stayed in an intensive care unit (ICU).

Many infections are so powerful they are known as superbugs. Superbugs may be bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites that are highly resistant to treatment with antibiotics or eradication with cleansers, or for which no effective vaccine exists. If the body’s own immune system cannot fight these bugs, and no effective treatment exists, these infections can grow and cause painful abscesses and sometimes require the amputation of a limb to stop the spread of the infection. Where the infection enters the bloodstream, a superbug can cause organ failure and death. Some of the most deadly known superbugs include the following:

MRSA MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a dangerous and even deadly bacterium that is highly resistant to treatment with antibotics, which means once you are infected, the infection can be very difficult to treat. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that more than 80,000 invasive MRSA infections happen every year, inflicting more than 11,000 deaths. The majority of MRSA infections are HA-MRSA, which stands for Hospital-Acquired MRSA. Cases have been documented in Louisville hospitals of MRSA infections following epidural injections.

C. diff. Another serious hospital-acquired infection is antibiotic-associated Clostridium difficile (C. diff.) colitis. C. diff is a bacterium that lives in the colon. The use of antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection may also have the effect of taking out other healthy gut bacteria which normally keep the body’s C. diff. levels in check. The colitis (an inflammation of the colon) brought on in this fashion can be life-threatening. Several rounds of antibiotics are often necessary to fight off a C. diff. infection, which like MRSA is highly resistant to treatment with antibiotics.

Other superbugs known to be transmitted in medical settings include VRE (Vancomycin resistant enterococcus), CRE (Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae), and resistant Gram-negative infections. A CRE outbreak in Los Angeles in 2014 left two people dead. The cause of the outbreak was a defectively-designed endoscope that could not be properly sterilized between uses.

Hospitals Must be Vigilant to Stop the Spread of Infection

Hospitals know these superbugs may be present in the environment, and they must be vigilant to fight the spread of infection among patients with weakened immune systems or during invasive procedures where infection is more likely. Infections can be stopped with simple sanitary procedures, such as regular hand washing and the wearing of gloves for doctors, nurses and other medical staff. It has been established that poor hand hygiene causes about 40% of MRSA infections, and a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine found that using germ-killing soaps in ICUs reduced the number of MRSA cases by 40%. Additionally, hospitals must follow appropriate procedures to sterilize bedding, surfaces and medical instruments, and to isolate patients infected with dangerous, contagious and resistant infections such as MRSA and C. diff.

Infections don’t just occur around wounds or surgical sites. The insertion and removal of urinary catheters, central lines, and epidural injections are common sites where an infection can enter the body. Ventilator equipment can also lead to severe respiratory infection. In fact, the most common hospital-acquired infections are:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Surgical site infections
  • Bloodstream infections
  • Pneumonia

Fight Hospital Negligence in Louisville

Not all hospital-acquired infections can be prevented, but many can. When the failure of a hospital or staff to follow common-sense and appropriate standards for sanitation and hygiene leads to a serious illness, those responsible can be held liable for the additional damage they have caused. The Slechter Law Firm in Louisville holds area hospitals and medical professionals accountable for their negligence and medical mistakes. If you believe that you or a family member acquired MRSA or another serious infection from a hospital, medical center or nursing home, call the Slechter Law Firm at 502-384-7400 to speak with experienced, compassionate attorneys about your potential claim.

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