What are hospital-acquired infections and how to recognize them?

Nosocomial infections, also known as hospital-acquired infections, are those infections that a patient develops during hospitalization.


What does hospital-acquired infection mean?

According to the definition, a nosocomial infection is acquired due to an infection or a toxin that exists in a specific place, such as a hospital. Currently, the term “nosocomial infections” is used interchangeably with “hospital-acquired infections”.


The term nosocomial infections refers to any systemic or localized disease that results from a reaction to an infectious agent or a toxin. The classification of nosocomial infections is important and the difference should be made. Normally, a 48-hour period from patient hospitalization is used to differentiate between hospital-acquired infections and community-acquired infections.


In the case of infections contracted in hospital units, there are certain characteristics:

– The infection typically occurs up to 48 hours after hospital admission


– Up to 3 days after the patient leaves the hospital


– Up to 30 days after a surgery


Symptoms of nosocomial infections

Experts say the symptoms of an in-hospital infection vary depending on the type. The most common types of infections taken from the hospital are: urinary tract infections, infections occurring near the area of the surgery, gastroenteritis, meningitis and pneumonia.


Thus, the symptoms of these types of infections may be: purulent secretions from a wound or lesion, fever, cough, difficulty in breathing, difficulty urinating, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.


Causes of nosocomial infections

There are several types of microorganisms that can cause in-hospital infections: bacteria, fungi and viruses being among them. Bacteria alone are the cause of almost 90% of cases of nosocomial infections, say specialists.


Because many patients have compromised immune systems during hospital admission, they have a higher risk of getting an infection. Among the bacteria that are responsible for the occurrence of hospital-acquired infections are: golden staphylococcus, E. coli, enterococcus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Other agents involved in hospital infections are: streptococci, acinetobacter, coagulase-negative staphylococci, Bacillus cereus, etc.


How are these infections transmitted?

It is important to know the routes of transmission of these microorganisms. Bacteria, fungi and viruses spread primarily through direct contact from one person to another. This means that bacteria are transmitted through dirty hands and medical tools (catheters, instruments that help patients breathe and other tools used in hospitals).


Nosocomial pathogens can be transmitted from one person to another, from the environment or from contaminated food, infected persons or from contact with shared objects and surfaces used by many people.


The number of cases of hospital-acquired infections may increase when there are situations where antibiotics are used excessively or improperly. For this reason, some bacteria end up being resistant to several types of antibiotics.


Treatment for nosocomial infections

Treatments for these problems depend, of course, on the type of infection. Your doctor will recommend antibiotics and rest. To encourage healing and to prevent dehydration, the doctor will encourage the patient to adopt a healthy diet, drink an optimal amount of fluids, and get plenty of rest.


Measures to prevent nosocomial infections

Some of the general measures to control the spread of these types of infections are:


– Analyzing the intensive care unit to see if people with a hospital-acquired infection have to be isolated from other patients;


– Identifying the type of isolation required for that patient, as the measure helps protect other patients and reduces the risk of infection;


– Observing hand hygiene, which involves washing hands before and after touching people in the hospital;


– Medical staff must always wear the appropriate equipment, such as gloves and medical masks;

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