When good hand hygiene and other infection prevention and control (IPC) measures are followed, 70 percent of infections can be prevented in health care settings, according to a new World Health Organization report.
The coronavirus pandemic and other disease outbreaks have highlighted the extent to which healthcare settings can contribute to the spread of infections.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed many challenges and gaps in IPC in all regions and countries, including those which had the most advanced IPC programmes, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Today, out of every 100 patients in acute care hospitals, seven in high-income countries and 15 in low and middle-income nations will acquire at least one healthcare associated infection (HAI) during their hospital stay – one in 10 of whom will die.
Newborns and patients in intensive care are particularly at risk, the report reveals, and almost half of all sepsis cases with organ dysfunction in adult intensive-care units are linked to healthcare.
The first Global Report on Infection Prevention and Control published Friday brings together evidence from scientific reports, and new data from WHO studies.
The impact of healthcare linked infections and antimicrobial resistance on people's lives is incalculable, says the WHO.
Over 24 percent of patients affected by healthcare associated sepsis and 52.3 percent of those treated in an intensive care unit die each year.
Moreover, deaths are increased two to threefold when infections are resistant to antimicrobials.
In the last five years, the WHO conducted global surveys and country joint evaluations to assess the implementation status of national IPC programmes.
Comparing data from the 2017-18 to 2021-22 surveys, the percentage of countries with a national IPC programme did not improve; and in 2021-22, only 3.8 percent of countries had all IPC minimum requirements in place at the national level.
In healthcare facilities, only 15.2 percent met all the IPC minimum requirements, according to a 2019 WHO survey.
However, some encouraging progress has been made, with significantly more countries appointing IPC focal points; dedicated budgets for IPC and curriculum for front line healthcare workers' training; national IPC guidelines and programmes for HAI surveillance; and hand hygiene compliance established as key national indicators.
Strongly supported by the WHO and others, many countries are scaling up actions to put in place minimum requirements and core components of IPC programmes.
Sustaining and further expanding this progress in the long-term is a critical need that requires urgent attention and investments.
"Our challenge now is to ensure that all countries are able to allocate the human resources, supplies and infrastructures this requires," said Tedros.