The number of infections caused by multiresistant bacteria and mycobacteria in Swedish hospitals has risen dramatically in recent years, giving rise to prolonged care and higher death rates. The situation is most serious in intensive care units, where between 10 and 20 per cent of patients contract some kind of hospital-related infection.
Specialist physician Christina Agvald-Öhman studied the infection route of bacteria strains at a Swedish intensive care unit for her thesis. The results of her work show that the spread of infection between patients is surprisingly high. Between 70 and 80 per cent of the patients who were in care at the unit for three to five days were involved in the spread of infection.
“Infections are mainly spread via staff and equipment, which could be avoided if the hygiene rules were properly followed,” says Dr Agvald-Öhman. “By far the most important rule, which is easily forgotten, is to wash your hands properly after contact with each patient.”
The bacteria strain under study was a type of Staphylococcus normally found on the skin of healthy people, but which can easily establish itself in the respiratory passages of ill people; it is also one of the most common causes of hospital-related blood poisoning. Dr Agvald-Öhman believes that other types of bacteria are transmitted in a similar way.
Hospital-related infections not only cause personal suffering for the patients, they are also a financial burden. One day’s intensive care costs about SKr 35,000, and according to common estimates prolong hospitalisation by six to twelve days.
The study was carried out at Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge, Stockholm County, where it has already spurred extensive action to prevent hospital-related infections.
“I’m convinced that these problems are just as serious at other intensive care units, and I hope that my results can help raise the general motivation surrounding hygiene in healthcare,” says Dr Agvald-Öhman.Thesis:
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