Our country is always looking for sources of energy and one of the industries in the US is mining. We mostly hear about mining for coal since we need to run our electric plants and heat our homes. Scientists are looking at other areas, particularly metals and seeing how they can impact your health. The big health issue in the news is the dramatic increase in hospital infections such as MRSA and C-diff. These infections can be life-threatening so coming up with new and innovative ideas for curbing the spread of infection is welcomed.
Last Friday, NPR’s Science Friday had a scientist on who was discussing the impact of copper on your health. We all remember all those folks wearing copper bracelets in hopes of curing arthritis, but as it turns out copper may be bacteria’s worst enemy.
Preliminary studies show that copper and its alloys, brass and bronze, have anti-microbial effects. In essence, they serve as sanitizers or resistors to infection. A study is being conducted looking at the impact that having copper covered bed rails, call buttons, etc. will decrease the transmission of life compromising infections. The study is being conducted at three hospitals: Memorial-Sloan Kettering, The VA in Charleston and MUSC also in Charleston. The researchers chose three hospitals that have specific populations that might be more prone to these hospital based infections.
It’s this type of research that is working to make hospitals safer. No one wants to spend any time in a hospital but if you do wouldn’t it be nice to know that your environment isn’t a bigger health risk then the disease that’s challenging you? Any steps we can take to make the hospital a place that truly works to ward off disease and promote health is a step in the right direction.
If it weren’t that the news alerts us to serious issues I’d take a TV holiday because it can be all consuming. It seems like every week there is a new medical study, pharmaceutical mishap and treatment in question. It shows us on the news, on websites and around the water cooler. So what’s the concern of the week?
Unfortunately studies are showing a huge increase in patients infected by a bacteria known as Clostridium Difficile (c-difficile). We should have known from the start we’d be in trouble because difficile in French means difficult. It is highly contagious and is often passed from patient to patient in hospitals and nursing homes. At first they believed that it was striking patients who had recently been on antibiotic or antimicrobial medication, but that seems to be in question.
This bacteria which causes many deaths is one more things to be on the lookout for if you have to be admitted to a hospital. The bacteria sits on surfaces. Think you’re safe? Here’s a short list of places where the bacteria is waiting to pounce: hands of caregivers, cart handles, bedrails, bedpans, stethoscopes, thermometers, and even telephones and remote controls. The news report showed one hospital working hard to keep surfaces clean by using a bleach solution to wipe down beds, rails, etc.
It’s crucial that you become assertive when your medical providers (doctors/nurses/medical assistants/certified nursing assistants/etc.) enter your room. It’s perfectly reasonable to request and if the request doesn’t work then demand that your care provider wash their hands upon entering the room. You don’t know what they touched right before touching you. The reports show that anti-bacterial gels don’t necessarily destroy the virus.
In addition to your medical team, it’s important to ask friends and family to wash their hands with soap and water. The odds are good you won’t have any trouble getting them to comply. All of these precautions are important because infection rates of c-difficile are reaching epidemic proportions. The number of cases has doubled since 1993 with the largest increase since 2000.
When facing a chronic or life-threatening illness the goal is to reduce or eliminate your exposure to harmful bacteria and viruses. You shouldn’t have to worry about what’s walking through your door at any given moment when you should be focusing your energy on getting well and getting out of the hospital.
Have you been diagnosed with c-difficile? How was it handled? What can you share to help others who may be preparing for a hospital stay? The more information we share the better your chances of avoiding these tragic infections.