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Hand-Washing Would Cut Deadly Hospital Infections

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Hospital infections cause more deaths, but hand-washing is the solution – TimesLeader:

A 2003 report in the New England Journal of Medicine called infections “by far the most common complications affecting hospitalized patients.”

Hospital-acquired infections are the fourth-largest killer in the United States, according to the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths (RID), a New York-based nonprofit group. And the threat is only becoming more dire, as more and more germs are growing resistant to commonly used antibiotics.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is among the fastest-growing and deadliest infections.

According to a 2005 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, patients with staph infections, on average, will stay in the hospital three times longer (14.3 days compared to 4.5 days) and pay three times as much ($48,824 vs. $14,141) as patients without staph infections nationwide.

More important, though, patients with staph infections will die five times as often (11.2 percent vs. 2.3 percent) as patients without staph infections.

In Pennsylvania, the first state to release hospital infection data, the death rate among hospital patients who developed infections was even higher at 15.4 percent in 2004, compared with 2.4 percent among other patients.

Fixing the problem is relatively simple [Emphasis added], according to the CDC. If doctors and other caregivers washed their hands in between treating patients, infection rates would plummet.

Research in a Swiss hospital showed that increased hand-washing cut hospital infection rates from 16.9 percent to 9.9 percent over four years. In the case of drug-resistant staph infections, hand-washing reduced the incidence from 2.2 percent to 0.9 percent.