The A-Z of Patient Care - H is for Healthcare Associated Infections (HAIs)

It is generally accepted that prevention is better than cure, and this is no more so than in the case of infection. When you’re ill, or find yourself unexpectedly in hospital, the last thing you may think about is the risk of getting something (an infection) that you didn’t have when you came into hospital, or at the start of your illness.

That’s what this post is all about. Healthcare Associated Infections (‘HAIs’)  might be an  unwanted “take-away” from your  stay  in hospital, or other healthcare treatment. You can get a HAI as a result of having contact with a healthcare environment, with other patients, or as a result of the treatment you may receive. Whilst the term HAI is broad, and it covers a broad range of infections, the two infections that have received the most publicity are  Meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C-diff). The risks of HAIs don’t just affect patients, they also affect anyone who comes into contact with patients, ranging from medical professionals to visitors on wards. But what are HAIs, how can you avoid getting them, and how can Vernacare minimise your risk of getting one?

MRSA

Do you remember the time not too long ago when there seemed to be a daily feature of a patient who had fallen victim to the ‘superbug’ MRSA (did anyone else imagine a giant ant-looking creature when they read superbug)? What few of those stories told you was that around 1 in 30 of us  normally carry Staphylococcus aureus on our skin, of which a proportion may be the antibiotic-resistant strain MRSA. Your work colleague, your partner , or even your child could be that 1 in 30…and through close contact it is possible for that bug to be spread to you or others. That means that it’s possible to get MRSA by touch, or touching objects that have MRSA on them. Just having MRSA on your skin won’t cause you  an infection: but it can become a problem if it manages to enter your body,  For patients in hospitals, they may be more at risk of getting an infection, for example if they have suffered a burn, have an open wound, or even if they have been catheterised. If they’re already unwell, their bodies are not always armed to fight infection as easily, and being in proximity to equally sick people means that bacteria can spread more easily due to the increased amount of “hands on” care they may require. MRSA can be treated with the right antibiotics, and a patient is usually kept in isolation whilst they’re getting over the infection to stop it spreading.

 

C-DIFF

You don’t really want to get C-diff either given the choice (it’s not an opt-out scenario, sadly). It’s a bacteria that can infect your bowel and cause diarrhoea. You may already carry C-diff in your gut without it ever causing problems, or you may get it from someone else who currently has it and contaminates your environment.  You’re more likely to develop an infection with C-diff when you’ve been taking a course of antibiotics (those who have been treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics particularly), have interventions that affect your gut, or if your ability to fight infection had been lowered (known as being immunocompromised). Those who have been in hospital or a care setting are more likely to be affected by C-diff due to the close proximity of patients and/or residents who may be carrying the bug. C-diff can be treated by careful antibiotic management, stopping any antibiotics you may be on, and taking those specific to kill the C-diff bacteria.  A slightly grim consequence of a spell of C-diff is that the bacteria that have passed out of your body are easily transferrable to other people, and someone with a C-diff infection is regarded as infectious until at least 72 hours after they lose their symptoms.

HAI prevention – Vernacare single-use system and handwashing protocols

It is estimated that every year globally 16 million people contract a HAI, directly causing 37,000 deaths and contributing to an additional 110,000 deaths. On top of that, infected patients spend on average, an extra 11 days in hospital and cost three times more than an uninfected patient to treat. So what can we do to reduce HAI rates?

#nottodayMRSA

As a patient trying to avoid a HAI, the key is to wash your hands thoroughly using either hand wipes, soap and water or alcohol hand gel before and after eating, and definitely after using the toilet. When it comes to caring for wounds, or catheters, following the advice of medical professionals to lessen the risk of infection is key.

What about if you’re visiting a patient in hospital? The rules are the same: clean your hands before and after you enter the ward (you’ll usually find it at the hospital entrance, ward entrance and patient’s bedside) and before touching your sick granny. 

We're experts when it comes to infection prevention with our single use system. As a patient using our single-use disposable containers means that you will be the only person to use one of our bedpans, bowls or urinals before it is disposed of. It also means if you can’t move, you can use one of our male or female urinals to ‘do your business’.  The nurse can even add a sachet of our VernaGel so that your pee stays where you left it,

instead of potentially spilling or splashing on you or your carer.  The healthcare professional then simply puts the container into one of our machines that reduces your waste, and the container to an ultrafine consistency that rapidly flushes down the drain. It’s as simple as that. Our VernaClean range can also help to disinfect surfaces, making sure to limit the chance of passing on a bug to anyone else. 

On top of that, The World Health Organisation also offers great advice on hand-washing. We’re part of the solution to fighting HAIs, and we hope you can be too!  Follow our journey in the fight for infection prevention and improving patient dignity on Twitter, and on LinkedIn