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Consumer Reports: Staying safe in the hospital

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We count on hospitals to make us well. But they can also be a breeding ground for serious infections. (WLS)

We count on hospitals to make us well. But they can also be a breeding ground for serious infections. Consumer Reports tracks hospital-infection records and says while some institutions have made good progress, serious problems remain. Consumer Reports has essential advice to help you survive a hospital stay.

The numbers are shocking: 650,000 patients develop an infection in the hospital and 75,000 die, according to the most recent data from the CDC.

"Germs concentrate in hospitals and they can be easily spread there. C. diff. and MRSA are two dangerous bacterial infections and are very difficult to treat," said Consumer Reports Chief Health Editor Ellen Kunes.

Kellie Pearson knows firsthand how serious C. difficile can be.

"When I got home, one of the surgical nurses that I talked to said you know we had other people and a couple of them died. We were concerned you were going to," Pearson said.

Which hospital you go to can make a difference. Consumer Reports' new hospital ratings show some hospitals do a much better job of preventing some types of infections than others.

"We've been looking at this data since 2009, and we see how some hospitals are able to prevent infections, so we really know it's possible," said Doris Peter, Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center.

Cleanliness is key. But patients can also take steps to keep themselves safe.

"Ask everyone who enters the room to wash their hands with soap and water. Hand sanitizer may not be enough to destroy some dangerous bacteria," Kunes said.

Ask if you can postpone surgery if you have any type of infection. A weakened immune system increases your risk of a new infection.

IVs and catheters can also lead to infections, so ask daily if they are still needed.

And try to have a friend or family member to be your advocate especially at night and on weekends.

Consumer Reports hospital ratings are available for free. You can check them at http://www.CR.org/hospitalratings.
You can also find 15 tips for preventing infections and staying safe in the hospital at http://www.consumerreports.org/avoidinfections2017.

All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2014. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not for profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org
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