Ebola Scare Highlights Problem of Hospital-acquired Illnesses

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Second Hospital Worker Diagnosed With Ebola

The news recently has been flooded by reports about the Ebola virus and how a second health care worker has tested positive for the disease. According to a Tallahassee news report, this hospital worker was diagnosed with the Ebola infection after being part of a team of dozens of health care professionals and support staffers who took care of Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian national who was the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.

There is serious concern about Ebola virus disease (EVD or Ebola, and formerly called Ebola hemorrhagic fever) because it is such a deadly and contagious virus. Individuals who become infected by the virus become sick with sudden fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, and sore throat. These initial symptoms are followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases internal and external bleeding (such as oozing from the gums and blood in the stool).

The virus is spread from one human to another by direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected people, and by contact with surfaces or materials (such as bedding or clothing) that are contaminated with these fluids. An individual can become infected if the virus enters the person’s body through broken skin or through the mucous membranes (nose, mouth, eyes). However, medical experts still have not determined how either of the health care workers became exposed to the Ebola virus, according to Dr. David Lakey, the Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Because the Ebola virus is so dangerous, infectious disease experts are concerned that more people who had contact with Duncan will come down with the disease. They continue to actively monitor 76 workers at Texas Health Presbyterian who may have been exposed to Ebola while treating Duncan, according to reports. They also continue to monitor an additional 48 people who may have been exposed to Ebola through contact with Duncan prior to his hospitalization.

Hospital-Acquired Or Healthcare Associated Illnesses And Infections

Although the current focus is on hospital workers catching the Ebola disease from a patient, sadly, hospital-acquired infections are not a new occurrence and they occur with surprising frequency in U.S. hospitals.

While most people go to the hospital to get better, for 1 in 25 people, a hospital stay can mean that they actually get sick from a bacteria or virus they catch while at the hospital, or other health care setting, such as ambulatory surgical centers, end-stage renal disease facilities, and long-term care facilities.

A patient can get a healthcare-associated illness from a variety of sources. Some common reasons include:

– improper sterilization and disinfection practices;

– reuse of syringes and needles;

– use of single-use medication vials for multiple patients;

– contaminated air conditioning systems;

– disproportionate nurse-to-patient ratio;

– physical layout of the healthcare facility (such as beds too close together); and

– failure to follow infectious disease protocols.

In 2011, there were an estimated 772,000 healthcare-associated infections in the United States. The most common infections resulted from:

– Pneumonia;

– Gastrointestinal illness;

– Urinary tract infections;

– Primary bloodstream infections;

– Surgical site infections from any inpatient surgery; and

– Other types of infections.

These healthcare-associated infections result in about 75,000 of these patients dying during their hospitalizations each year. Individuals who survive these infections often have to stay in the hospital for significantly more days and have substantially higher hospital costs related to their infection treatments. For example, one study found that hospital-acquired infections increase ICU length of stay by 4.3 to 15.6 days and lead to a more than 20-percent increase in the patient’s cost of care.

Tallahassee Legal Help For Hospital-Acquired Infections

Hospitals and healthcare facilities have a professional duty to provide their patient and guests with a clean, safe, and sanitary environment to avoid transmission of infections and communicable diseases. They also must have active and affirmative programs for the prevention, control, and investigation of infections and communicable diseases. If a healthcare provider fails to provide appropriate care or is otherwise negligent, they can be held responsible for the illnesses and injuries that result.

If healthcare providers or medical staff have made your medical condition worse, or if you suffered additional physical or emotional pain due to an infection or other post-medical treatment complication, contact the Tallahassee medical malpractice attorneys at Fasig & Brooks today at (850) 222-3232 for a consultation to discuss your rights to compensation.