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Covid has amplified risk of poor infection control, warns WHO

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the dangers of poor infection prevention and control, especially in healthcare and care settings, the World Health Organization (WHO) has emphasised.

The warning was made to coincide with WHO’s World Hand Hygiene Day yesterday (Thursday 5 May), with a report from WHO arguing that, where good hand hygiene and other cost-effective practices are followed, 70% of those infections can be prevented.

Out of every 100 patients in acute-care hospitals, seven patients in high-income countries and 15 patients in low- and middle-income countries will acquire at least one healthcare-associated infection (HAI) during their hospital stay, WHO said.

On average, the Global report on infection prevention and control report concluded that one in every 10 affected patients will die from their HAI.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people in intensive care and newborns are particularly at risk from HAIs, WHO pointed out.

Approximately one in four hospital-treated sepsis cases and almost half of all cases of sepsis with organ dysfunction treated in adult intensive-care units were healthcare-associated.

The report has brought together evidence from scientific literature and various reports, plus new data from WHO studies.

“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 [infection prevention and control] programmes,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general.

“It has also provided an unprecedented opportunity to take stock of the situation and rapidly scale up outbreak readiness and response through IPC practices, as well as strengthening IPC programmes across the health system.

“Our challenge now is to ensure that all countries are able to allocate the human resources, supplies and infrastructures this requires,” he added.

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