Nosocomial Infections

In the twenty-year period between 1975 and 1995, nosocomial or hospital acquired infections increased by 36%. A review of studies reported in two specific conferences on the topic, revealed the magnitude of the problem (APIC 2000; CDC 2000). The papers presented at these conferences provide evidence of increasing infection rates, a shift in infection type and additional locations where these infections are being spread. In addition to being found in most hospitals, nosocomial infections are common among patients admitted to acute rehabilitation units. Rates have been reported as high as 17% and were found to significantly contribute to patient morbidity (Mylotte 2000). Similar concern was voiced in a study involving a VA psychiatric facility (Risa et al. 2000). Nosocomial invasive aspergillosis is associated with high morbidity and mortality in patients with blood related illnesses (Raad et al. 2000). Various fungal infections found in immunocompromised patients were traced to problems during construction renovations of healthcare facilities (Drusin et al. 2000; Donelan et al. 2000; Rebmann et al. 2000). In coastal regions, that are prone to hurricanes, high humidity and moisture levels, patients are subjected to increased risk of nosocomial infections (Ober et al. 2000). Zhan et al. (2003) surveyed 20% of US hospitals and found that hospital acquired infections increase the average patient’s stay by almost 10 days, increases the cost per patient by more than $38,000 US and increase their risk of death by more than 4%. This study resulted in the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospital Organizations (JCAHO 2004) to revised the standards for 2004. Zoutman et al. (2003) reported a similar study of Canadian hospitals. In 2003 the Province of Ontario was suddenly exposed to a severe epidemic of SARS. Over the six months from the infection’s arrival until the last patient was discharged from hospital, 375 cases were recorded (OMH. 2004). At the height of the outbreak thousands of people, including health care workers, mostly in the Toronto area were quarantined for 10-day periods at home and given specific advice on preventing family members from infection. This was one of the extreme examples of a hospital acquired infection.