Healthcare-associated infections, or HAIs, are infections that patients get while receiving treatment for medical or surgical conditions. HAIs are the most common complication of hospital care and are one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in 31 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection on any given day.
Although significant progress has been made in preventing some healthcare-associated infections, there is much more work to be done. A recent study conducted by the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) shows that, after several years of decline, hospitals in the U.S. saw significant increases in HAIs in 2020.
Before 2020, the rates of HAIs in U.S. hospitals had been declining since 2015, a decrease that has been attributed to improved infection prevention and control measures. However, the surge of hospitalized patients in 2020 – and the diversion of hospital staff and resources to care for those patients – was most likely the cause of increased rates of HAIs.
Published today in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the analysis of the NHSN data from acute-care hospitals in 12 states found that rates of central-line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs), and ventilator-associated events (VAEs) saw significant increases in 2020 compared with 2019, particularly in the second half of the year. There was also a substantial rise in Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria.
What Causes Healthcare-Associated Infections?
HAIs are often caused by harmful bacteria, viruses, and other prevalent pathogens in a healthcare environment. When a patient is ill or injured, they may have a compromised immune system that is not successful in fighting off these infections when exposed to them. A patient may develop an infection in hospitals that are not as clean as they should be or when the medical staff fails to follow best practices in preventing HAIs.
HAIs occur in all types of care settings, including:
- Acute-care hospitals
- Ambulatory surgical centers
- Dialysis facilities
- Outpatient care facilities (such as healthcare clinics and physicians’ offices)
- Long-term care facilities (such as rehabilitation centers and nursing homes)
Common Types of Healthcare-Associated Infections
Central-line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs)
According to the CDC, CLABSIs result in thousands of deaths each year and billions of dollars in added costs to the U.S. healthcare system, yet these infections are preventable. CLABSIs occur when bacteria or other germs enter the patient’s central line and enter their bloodstream.
Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs)
CAUTIs are a specific type of urinary tract infection (or UTI). These infections can involve any part of the urinary system. UTIs are the most common type of healthcare-associated infection reported to the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). Among UTIs acquired in the hospital, approximately 75% are associated with a urinary catheter. According to the CDC, between 15 to 25% of hospitalized patients receive urinary catheters during their hospital stay.
Ventilator-associated events (VAEs)
The term ventilator-associated events, or VAEs, is relatively new. Before 2013, surveillance for ventilator-associated events was limited to ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP), the most common HAI in intensive care units (ICUs) globally. VAP is a lung infection that develops in a person on a ventilator. A ventilator is a machine used to help a patient breathe by giving oxygen through a tube placed in a patient’s mouth or nose or through a hole in the front of the neck. An infection may occur if germs enter through the tube and get into the patient’s lungs. Other VAEs may include sepsis, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), pulmonary embolism, barotrauma, and pulmonary edema.
Clostridioides difficile (C. diff)
Clostridioides difficile, or C. diff, is an antibiotic-resistant “superbug” that causes life-threatening infections of the large intestine (colon). It’s estimated to cause nearly half a million infections in the U.S. each year. C. diff is a significant health threat. In 2017, there were an estimated 223,900 cases in hospitalized patients and 12,800 deaths in the U.S., the CDC reports. C. diff infections primarily occur in people 65 and older who receive medical care and take antibiotics, people staying in hospitals and nursing homes for an extended period, and people with weakened immune systems or previous infection with C. diff.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
MRSA is a type of bacteria that is resistant to several antibiotics. Most MRSA infections occur in people who've been in hospitals or other healthcare settings, such as nursing homes and dialysis centers. When it occurs in these settings, it's known as healthcare-associated MRSA (HA-MRSA). HA-MRSA infections usually are associated with invasive procedures or devices, such as surgeries, intravenous tubing, or artificial joints. HA-MRSA can spread by healthcare workers touching people with unclean hands or touching contaminated surfaces.
Acinetobacter bacteria causes pneumonia, and wound, bloodstream, and urinary tract infections. This bacteria is a well-documented pathogen of burn units and is challenging to treat in patients with severe burns. The incidence of Acinetobacter infection in hospitals has dramatically increased in recent years, becoming a significant global problem. Nearly all infections happen in patients who recently received care in a healthcare facility. In 2017, carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter caused an estimated 8,500 infections in hospitalized patients and 700 estimated deaths in the U.S.
The Importance of Disinfection in the Battle Against HAIs
One way to combat healthcare-associated infections is to prevent them from occurring. Infection prevention and control practices such as proper handwashing, thorough cleaning, and disinfection practices are quintessential in the fight against HAIs.
Using an effective disinfectant product, such as Vital Oxide, to eliminate pathogens on surfaces can help prevent HAIs from occurring in the first place. Vital Oxide is an EPA-registered Hospital Disinfectant that cleans, disinfects, and deodorizes hard, non-porous hospital and medical surfaces in one step – with no rinsing required.
Vital Oxide has been used to combat HAIs, including MRSA and Acinetobacter, in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other healthcare facilities worldwide.
Vital Oxide removes dirt, grime, fungus, mold, food residue, blood, and other organic matter commonly found in hospitals and healthcare facilities. It also eliminates odors, leaving hospital surfaces smelling clean and fresh. Additionally, Vital Oxide may be used to pre-clean or decontaminate critical or semi-critical medical devices before sterilization of high-level disinfection. For effective disinfection, blood and other body fluids must be thoroughly cleaned from surfaces and objects before application of Vital Oxide.
Vital Oxide can also be used to sanitize bed linens, towels, and other contaminated laundry items in the washing machine.At Vital Oxide, we’re proud to offer a revolutionary disinfectant powerful enough to kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria without harsh chemicals. Follow us on Instagram (@vitaloxideofficial) for more great cleaning and disinfecting tips. If you have any questions, please Contact Us or Send Us a Message on Facebook. We're here to help.