7 On Your Side: Consumer Reports investigates hospital infection records

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- We all know a stay at the hospital is a chance to get better. We count on hospitals to make us well. But they can also be a breeding ground for serious infections.

The numbers are shocking. Over 650,000 patients develop an infection in the hospital and 75,000 die, according to the most recent data from the CDC.

7 On Your Side's Michael Finney partnered up with Consumer Reports, which tracks hospital-infection records. They say while some institutions have made good progress, serious problems remain.

"Germs concentrate in hospitals and they can be easily spread there. C. difficile and MRSA are two dangerous bacterial infections and are very difficult to treat," explained Ellen Kunes, Consumer Reports Chief Health Editor.

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Kellie Pearson knows firsthand how serious C. difficile can be.

"When I got home, one of the surgical nurses that I talked to said, 'You know we had other people and a couple of them died. We were concerned you were going to.'" She said.

Which hospital you go to can make a difference.

Consumer Reports' new hospital ratings show some hospitals do a much better job of preventing some types of infections than others.

"We've been looking at this data since 2009, and we see how some hospitals are able to prevent infections, so we really know it's possible," explained Doris Peter, with the Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center.

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Cleanliness is key. But patients can also take steps to keep themselves safe.

"Ask everyone who enters the room to wash their hands with soap and water. Hand sanitizer may not be enough to destroy some dangerous bacteria," said Kunes.

Ask if you can postpone surgery if you have any type of infection. A weakened immune system increases your chance of a new infection.

IV therapy and catheters can also lead to infections, so ask daily if they are still needed.

And try to have a friend or family member to be your advocate, especially at night and on weekends.

Consumer Reports hospital ratings are available here.

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2014. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
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