Nosocomial infections; preventable mortality


By Abanobi Nkachukwu .N

Otherwise known as hospital-acquired infections, nosocomial infections develop in patients while inside hospitals, exceeding the disease incubation period, and in a shorter incubation period after discharge from the hospital (Abanobi, 2010).

Who is at risk?

Individuals at risk include:

  • Diabetics
  • Pre or post organ transplant individuals
  • Intensive care patients
  • Immunosuppressed individuals
  • Neonates with underdeveloped immune systems
  • Increased aged especially among patients with comorbidities

Mode of transmission:

  • Droplet nuclei (air) to surface transmission
  • Use of medical devices e.g. Nebulizers, catheters, Canulars, etc.
  • Cross infection from poor medical care

Public health significance and burden:

Nosocomial infections increase mortality, prolong hospital stay, causes long term disability, generates cost, affects future health seeking behaviour especially among individuals in developing countries (Abanobi, 2010).

According to World Health Organization, hundreds of millions of patients are affected by these infections around the world, with recordings of:

  • A prevalence variation between 3.5% and 12% in developed countries,
  • Age-specific neonatal death rate between 4% to 56% in developing countries, 5.7% to 19.1% in low- and middle-income countries and 75% in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • A proportion range of 4.4% to 88.9% of ICU-acquired infections
  • A frequency of as high as 42.7 episodes per 1000 patient days overall infections (WHO, n.d.).


Measures of prevention that could be adopted include:

  • Identifying predisposing factors, risk elimination and appropriate care
  • Improving education of clinical professionals e.g. medical doctors and nurses, and ensuring accountability
  • Improving hospital hygienic conditions
  • Adequate nurse-to-patient and doctor-to-patient ratio to reduce the risk of cross contamination
  • Early diagnosis of cases and appropriate antibiotic treatments.

Yes, the nurse-to-patient and doctor-to-patient ratio is a critical issue that needs to be addressed in the Nigerian Healthcare System.

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