The Threat of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria—Tips for Staying Safe in Healthcare Settings

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A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals an alarming growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria.  What can you do to keep you and your family safe?

In late January, WHO released the first report from its Global Antimicrobial Surveillance System (GLASS).  GLASS was launched in 2015 to align the measurement standards of antimicrobial resistance and provide a framework for international surveillance.  In this report, 22 countries provided data that reveal antibiotic resistance is global and some common bacteria are drug-resistant to varying degrees around the world.  Looking at 500,000 people with bacterial infections, findings include:

  • Of bacteria that cause bloodstream infection, between zero and 82 percent show resistance to at least one antibiotic used for its treatment.
  • Resistance to penicillin ranged from zero to 51 percent in some populations. Penicillin is commonly used to treat pneumonia around the world.
  • For patients with urinary tract infections involving Escherichia coli (E. coli), between eight and 65 percent were resistant to the drug treatment of choice, ciprofloxacin.

Dr. Marc Sprenger, Director of WHO’s Antimicrobial Resistant Secretariat notes, “The report confirms the serious situation of antibiotic resistance worldwide.”

Multi-drug resistant bacteria are a problem for everyone, whether or not you have ever taken an antibiotic.  While antimicrobials were truly miracle drugs when discovered, their uniform overuse threatens to return us to a time when seemingly minor infections can kill.

Tips for protection

Antibiotic resistance impacts all of humanity.  Bacteria do not respect borders or socio-economic divides. Some serious infections more often associated with healthcare environments, like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), are becoming more common in community settings. That said, it is important to try and protect yourself in hospitals where you are most likely to be exposed to a multi-drug resistant bacteria.  Consider these tips:

  • Take support: When you are scheduled for an outpatient or inpatient procedure, or if you are hospitalized with an illness, try to arrange for a family member or friend to help you throughout your stay.  Taking an advocate reduces your risk of many kinds of errors and ensures some continuity of care with changing shifts.
  • Reduce infection: Check the infection rate of the hospital, ask caregivers about rates of infection on the unit and ask doctors and nursing staff if they have washed their hands prior to touching you or a wound.  If possible, use bleach wipes to wipe down your room and all items you touch, or have your advocate do so.
  • Question devices: If they come into play during your care, ask daily if a catheter or central line can be removed.  Indwelling devices put you at higher risk for a healthcare associated infection (HAI).
  • Be aware: Monitor yourself for infection during and after your hospital stay.  If you experience diarrhea, swelling or redness, fever, exceptional fatigue, or other symptoms, alert staff or your doctor immediately.  End your hospital stay as quickly as possible to avoid exposure to lethal bacteria.

If you must take an antibiotic, take only as prescribed and notify your doctor if discomfort persists.  Until new options in the battle against bacteria are developed, we are all at risk.  If you are hospitalized and believe you suffered serious infection as a result—speak with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney in your area.

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With more than 30 years successful experience obtaining more than one billion dollars for our clients, Schochor, Federico and Staton, P.A. is dedicated to helping those personally injured through medical malpractice.  Call 410-234-1000 or contact us to set up a free consultation to discuss your case.