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Three million Europeans catch infections in hospital annually

08 July 2013

The first Europe-wide point prevalence survey on healthcare-associated infections and antimicrobial use estimates that on any given day, about 80 000 patients – or one in 18 patients – in European hospitals have at least one healthcare-associated infection.

Conducted in more than 1,000 hospitals in 30 European countries, the survey by the European Centre for Diseases Prevention and Control (ECDC) is said to provide the most comprehensive database on healthcare-associated infections and antimicrobial use in European acute care hospitals to date. The data are published as a report and also available online as an interactive database.

The data report and the database include data on the most commonly reported healthcare-associated infections and involved microorganisms, how often and for which indications antimicrobial drugs are being used and indicators on infection control structures and processes in European hospitals. 

The survey found that the prevalence of healthcare-associated infections is the highest among patients admitted to intensive care units (ICUs), where 19.5 percent of patients had at least one bug they had picked up from the hospital.

The most common types of such infections are respiratory tract infections, surgical site infections, urinary tract infections and bloodstream infections. At least one in three patients, receive at least one antimicrobial agent on any given day in European hospitals.

Based on the survey results, ECDC has made recommendations that should be further developed and implemented across Europe. Increasing the skills for surveillance of healthcare-associated infections and antimicrobial use, and raising awareness of healthcare-associated infections among thousands of healthcare workers across Europe were the main contributions of the point prevalence survey.

Healthcare-associated infections are infections acquired by patients during their stay in a hospital or another healthcare setting. Although some of these infections can be treated easily, others may more seriously affect a patient’s health, increasing their stay in the hospital and hospital costs, and causing considerable distress to these patients. 

A prevalence survey is a count of the number of patients with a particular condition/treatment (in this case either a healthcare-associated infection or an antimicrobial agent) at a particular time (in this case a day), as a proportion of the total number of patients who are hospitalised at that particular time.

The report is available to read online at: http://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications/Publications/healthcare-associated-infections-antimicrobial-use-PPS.pdf