Good hand hygiene protects patients from infections

KARACHI: On Hand Hygiene Day to be observed on 5 May, WHO urges health workers to practice good hand hygiene when caring for patients, to protect them from contracting infections in health facilities. Initial results from a new WHO global survey confirm that these infections are often resistant to the antibiotics used to treat them.

Healthcare-associated infections usually occur when germs are transferred by health-care providers’ hands touching the patient. Of every 100 hospitalized patients, at least 7 in high-income and 10 in low-/middle-income countries will acquire a healthcare-associated infection. Among critically ill and vulnerable patients in intensive care units, that figure rises to around 30 per 100 . Every year, hundreds of millions of patients around the world are affected by healthcare-associated infections, a high proportion of which is caused by germs that are resistant to antimicrobial drugs.

When patients are infected with germs that do not respond well to antibiotics, they generally have worse clinical outcomes, cost more to treat and are more likely to die than other patients.

Earlier this week, WHO issued a major global report on antimicrobial resistance documenting high rates of resistance in bacteria that cause common infections (e.g. urinary tract infection, surgical site infections, pneumonia and bloodstream infections) in all regions of the world.

The initial results of the global survey confirm that resistance is very frequent in bacteria isolated in health-care facilities; for instance, for a devastating bug called Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), it is as high as 44%, 40% and 38% on average in Latin America, West African countries, and Europe respectively.

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