Hospital-acquired infections include bacteria and viruses contracted by patients in a hospital, nursing home or other health care setting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in 31 patients has at least one HAI at any given time.

Learn more about how HAIs occur and how patients and their family members can take steps to avoid these infections.

Characteristics of an HAI

Doctors and lawmakers categorize an HAI as an infection that develops:

  • At a health care facility where doctors are treating the patient for a different medical concern
  • Within 30 days of a surgical procedure
  • Within three days of discharge from a hospital or health care facility
  • Within 48 hours of admission to a hospital or health care facility

Pneumonia, meningitis, gastroenteritis, surgical site infections and urinary tract infections are the most common HAIs.

Signs of an HAI

A person who has an HAI may experience diverse symptoms depending on the type of infection. Seek medical attention if you or a loved one displays:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Difficulty urinating or burning during urination
  • Shortness of breath
  • Uncontrollable coughing
  • Fever
  • Redness, swelling or discharge at the surgical site

Preventive tips for patients

The responsibility for HAI prevention lies with the health care facility. When a person contracts an HAI because of medical provider negligence, he or she may have a medical malpractice claim. In New Mexico, patients generally must file this type of lawsuit within three years of the negligent action or inaction in question. The CDC says that anyone receiving medical care should be aware of the HAI symptoms above and call the doctor right away if they witness these developments.