Infection occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites that are not normally present invade the body and begin to multiply. Infections range from minor and easily treatable to serious, systemic and fatal. They can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-lasting), primary or secondary. An infection may affect a certain organ or area of the body or it can spread throughout the body and cause serious illness or death. There are as many types of infections as there are causes.
Infections can be internal or external. Examples of internal infections are the stomach or intestinal flu, urinary tract infection and pneumonia. External infections include cellulitis, a common but potentially serious bacterial skin infection, as well as any wound or sore that becomes infected due to negligent or improper treatment. Most infections respond to treatment with antibiotics or other drugs; however, when an infection goes unnoticed or is treated incorrectly, it can result in serious illness or even death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in 25 hospital patients have at least one infection that can be attributed to their health care environment.
Here are some common types of infections:
A staph infection, which is caused by Staphylococcus bacteria, can develop if a doctor or other medical professional fails to properly clean a wound or uses improperly sterilized instruments.
MRSA, which stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, is a dangerous type of staph bacteria that is resistant to many antibiotics. In a hospital or nursing home, MRSA can cause severe problems such as bloodstream infections, pneumonia, and surgical site infections. If not treated quickly, MRSA infections can cause sepsis and even lead to death. MRSA, along with other kinds of staph infections, can be caused by direct contact with an infected wound or from contaminated hands, usually those of healthcare providers. Also, the bacteria can be unwittingly spread by people who carry MRSA but do not have any visible signs of infection or illness.
C diff. Infections
C diff. is a potentially life-threatening infection caused by a type of bacteria called clostridium difficile (C. diff.) It can cause colitis, a serious inflammation of the colon. The bacteria is often spread in hospital or nursing home settings but it can also occur in people with conditions such as colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease or a weakened immune system caused by cancer treatment or another health problem.
Health Care Associated Infections (HCAI)
Many health care-related infections are caused by invasive devices used in medical procedures; including central line-associated bloodstream infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, and ventilator-associated pneumonia. These types of infections can occur if the equipment is not sterilized properly or incorrect use by the doctor or medical practitioner. Infections may also occur at surgical sites following surgery or other invasive procedures.
Pneumococcus, or Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria, can cause many types of illnesses, some of which can be life-threatening. It is one of the most common causes of severe pneumonia, an infection that affects the lungs. Pneumococcus is also the most common cause of bloodstream infections, pneumonia, meningitis, and middle ear infections in young children.
While anyone can get an infection, there is a higher risk among those with compromised immune systems. Some of these high-risk categories include:
- Those taking steroids or other medications that suppress the immune system, such as anti-rejection drugs for a transplanted organ
- People with HIV or AIDS
- Individuals who have cancer or other disorders that can affect the immune system, or those who are undergoing treatment that lowers resistance to infections, such as chemotherapy
- Implanted medical devices
- Elderly people
- Infants or very young children
- Post-operative patients
Areas of Negligence
There are safety measures every hospital, nursing home, and the medical facility can and should take to prevent infection. Unnecessary pain, serious illness, and even death can result if a facility is negligent in any of these areas:
- Unsanitary equipment or implements
- Failure to follow hygiene or sterilization protocol
- Incomplete or inaccurate medical records
- Poor training of permanent and temporary staff members
- Medication errors
- Failure to check credentials of independent contractors, such as attending physicians or temporary staff
- Personnel shortages
- Incorrect use or absence of protective materials such as masks and gloves
- Maintenance issues such as unfiltered air or inadequate lighting
If you suspect that you or a family member have been the victim of negligent medical care by a doctor or hospital, seek immediate medical attention and contact 1-800-Malpractice ® for a free consultation. Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys will answer your questions and help you obtain the compensation you and your family deserve.