Sunday, July 24, 2011

Afraid of Flying? WHO says Hospitals are More Dangerous.

Your chances of dying in a hospital because of a medical mistake are much higher than going down in an airplane, according to the World Health Organization.
In a July 21, 2011 news briefing , WHO’s newly appointed envoy for patient safety Liam Donaldson pointed out that the chance of dying in a plane crash is about 1 in 10 million, but 1 in 10 patients encounter medical errors at the hospital. The chances of dying from an error are about 1 in 300, Reuters reports.

Donaldson cited a common comparison of the aviation and health-care industries in an effort to promote the WHO's surgical safety checklist for hospitals, but there are also several ways patients can protect themselves from errors, and in particular, from infection.

Here are a few tips from the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths:

- Ask hospital workers if they’ve washed their hands, or used an alcohol-based cleaner, before they touch you.

- If the doctor uses a stethoscope, ask him or her to wipe it with alcohol.

- Avoid putting your hands near your mouth.

- If you’re going for surgery, stop smoking in advance — smokers are more likely to get infections and take longer to recover.

-Don’t shave the area where you’ll be having the surgery (bacteria could enter through nicks). And remind the surgeon that you may need an antibiotic before surgery.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has a list of 20 tips for avoiding errors.
And of course, avoiding hospitals cuts down the risk of contracting a hospital infection. Eating healthily and exercising regularly helps to avoid chronic illnesses that might bring you to the hospital in the first place.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Copper surfaces reduce risk of hospital infections

A new study presented at the 1st International Conference on Prevention and Infection Control (ICPIC) in Geneva suggests that almost all of the bacteria that cause hospital-acquired infections in ICUs can be killed by utilizing antimicrobial copper surfaces.
Copper, like silver, kills bacteria mechanically. Because of this the microbes cannot develop a resistance to it. The exact mechanism by which copper kills bacteria is still being researched, however, several theories exist and are being studied. They include:
  • a leakage of potassium or glutamate through the outer membrane of bacteria
  • a disturbance in osmotic balance
  • the ability of copper to bind to proteins that do not require copper
  • the oxidative stress caused by generating hydrogen peroxide
The most recent trial, conducted at three US facilities - has shown that the use of antimicrobial copper surfaces in intensive care units cuts down risks of hospital infection by 40.4 per cent.

non-disposable metal or plastic surfaces on door knobs, railings and tray tables are often touched by people in hospitals and clinics, becoming sources of infection.

Researchers at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre, New York, the Medical University of South Carolina and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Centre, replaced bed rails, overbed tray tables, nurse call buttons and IV poles with antimicrobial copper versions according to a Sloan Kettering statement. Data presented by trial leader Michael Schmidt, professor of microbiology and immunology at Sloan Kettering, demonstrated a 97 per cent reduction in surface pathogens in rooms with copper surfaces.

Schmidt said: " Bacteria present on ICU room surfaces are probably responsible for 35-80 per cent of patient infections, demonstrating how critical it is to keep hospitals clean."

"The copper objects used in the clinical trial supplemented cleaning protocols, lowered microbial levels, and resulted in a statistically significant reduction in the number of infections contracted by patients treated in those rooms," he said. 

Laboratory testing shows that, when cleaned regularly, Antimicrobial Copper kills greater than 99.9% of the VRE, MRSA, Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and E. coli O157:H7. Antimicrobial Copper surfaces are a supplement to and not a substitute for standard infection control practices and have been shown to reduce microbial contamination, but do not necessarily prevent cross contamination; users must continue to follow all current infection control practices.

Michels et al, Lett Appl Microbiol, 49 (2009) 191-195 demonstrated that Antimicrobial CopperTM outperforms two commercially available silver-containing coatings under typical indoor conditions.