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Patients face hospital-acquired infections when germs won't die

In Connecticut, many of us think of hospitals as safe places to be. We're surrounded by medical professionals, and medicines and other life-saving treatments are nearby. What we often don't consider, however, are the germs that lurk in the cracks and crevices of hospitals. These germs can cause avoidable injury to patients. 

Some Connecticut residents may be surprised to hear that approximately 5 percent of patients acquire some sort of infection while in the hospital, and roughly 100,000 people die each year because of infections they acquired during a hospital stay. The problem, hospitals say, is what is being called a "superbug." 

Superbugs that are affecting patients are considered very difficult to kill. Even when hospitals clean rooms with special vapors and ultraviolet lights, it has not yet been proven that these techniques significantly limit the existence of certain germs. An example of one of these germs that some Connecticut residents may have heard of is Clostridium difficile -- also known as C-diff. 

As some may know, C-diff causes diarrhea and is often picked up by patients in hospitals. It became a serious issue in hospitals about 10 years ago and now contributes to the deaths of 14,000 people each year. The problem with C-diff is that it can live for long periods of time in hospitals, and many sanitizers won't kill it. 

Fortunately, hospitals and other companies are working toward finding solutions to keep patients safe. In addition to ensuring that all aspects of patients rooms are cleaned, including items like television remotes, hospitals are beginning to use ultraviolet technology to zap germs in rooms. One hospital that used this technology noticed a dramatic drop in deaths from C-diff. 

Ultimately, cleanliness can mean the difference between a safe hospital stay and a hazardous one. Hopefully hospitals will continue looking for new ways to keep patients safe during their visits. 

Source: USA Today, "Hospitals see surge of superbug-fighting products," April 29, 2013

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