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What are hospital-acquired infections?

When you become a patient in an Arizona hospital or other health care facility, the last thing you expect is that you will get an infection while there. Nevertheless, that is exactly what you risk, especially if your hospital stay requires time in the intensive care unit where medical professionals treat patients who have the most serious diseases. HealthLine reports that you have a one in ten chance of contracting an HAI every time you are admitted to the hospital.

Hospital-acquired infections also go by the names of health-care associated infections and nosocomial infections. Whichever term is used, an HAI is an infection that you acquire within the first 48 hours after your admission, within three days after your discharge, or up to 30 days after you undergo an operation or surgical procedure.

HAI types and symptoms

There are many kinds of HAIs, but the most common ones include the following:

  • Urinary tract infections, a/k/a UTIs
  • Surgical site infections
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Meningitis
  • Pneumonia

Your symptoms will vary depending on which type of HAI you acquire. You may develop a fever, a cough, headaches, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. If you get a UTI, you may find it difficult to urinate and you may experience burning every time you do. If you underwent surgery, your wound may start to discharge and the area around it may become irritated and painful.

HAI causes

The reason why patients get HAIs is because the bacteria, viruses and fungi that cause them tend to run rampant in a hospital, spreading rapidly via person-to-person contact. You are at particularly high risk of acquiring an HAI if your immune system is already compromised prior to your hospital admission.

If you undergo surgery and/or spend any time in the intensive care unit while hospitalized, you are far more likely to acquire an HAI there than in any other area of the hospital. As many as 11 percent of surgical patients contract an HAI. The risk of your child acquiring one in the pediatric ICU ranges from 6.1 to 29.6 percent.

If you or your child develops HAI symptoms after a hospitalization, see your doctor as soon as possible. (S)he can diagnose the precise HAI you have and start appropriate treatment. This is general information only and not intended to provide legal advice.

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