WASHINGTON (AFP) - People who are hospitalised in the United States risk acquiring health care-associated infections, which kill 75,000 patients per year, the US health authorities said on Wednesday.
Many bacterial infections - which can lead to serious complications from pneumonia and illnesses of the intestinal tract - could be prevented if health care workers practiced common hygiene, said the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"Although there has been some progress, today and every day more than 200 Americans with healthcare-associated infections will die during their hospital stay," said CDC Director Tom Frieden.
"The most advanced medical care won't work if clinicians don't prevent infections through basic things such as regular hand hygiene."
The data, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, came from 183 US hospitals in 2011.
That year, the CDC survey found that about 721,800 infections occurred in 648,000 hospital patients.
Some 75,000 patients with health care-associated infections died during their hospitalizations.
The most common infections were pneumonia and surgical site infections (each at 22 per cent), followed by gastrointestinal infections (17 per cent), urinary tract infections (13 per cent), and bloodstream infections (10 per cent).
The germs causing these infections were C. difficile (12 per cent), Staphylococcus aureus, including MRSA (11 per cent), Klebsiella (10 per cent), E. coli (9 per cent), Enterococcus (9 per cent), and Pseudomonas (7 per cent).
A second report out Wednesday from the CDC found that nationwide, such infections are on the decline in recent years.
Bloodstream infections were down 44 per cent between 2008 and 2012, and infections related to 10 selected surgical procedures were down 20 per cent in the same timeframe.
Hospital infections with MRSA and C. difficile showed less substantive declines, at 4 per cent and 2 per cent respectively from 2011 to 2012.
The United Sates is "making progress in preventing health care-associated infections", said Patrick Conway, chief medical officer at the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
He said the gains come from three main mechanisms, including financial incentives, performance measures and public reporting to improve transparency, and increased use of interventions that have proven effective.
"This progress represents thousands of lives saved, prevented patient harm, and the associated reduction in costs across our nation."