`Hand hygiene reduces healthcare-acquired infections`

New Delhi: The World Health Organisation (WHO) Friday said the number of infections acquired during medical or surgical procedures can be brought down by 50 percent if good hand hygiene is followed. May 5 is observed as `World Hand Hygiene Day`.

"There is clear evidence that hundreds of millions of patients are infected every year worldwide by healthcare-associated infections. Low and middle-income countries bear a huge burden of these infections," said Samlee Plianbangchang, WHO Regional Director for Southeast Asia.

"There is an urgent need to establish reliable systems for surveillance of such infections to assess the actual burden. This must be treated as a priority patient safety issue," Plianbangchang added.

Healthcare-associated infections are infections caused by a variety of organisms during the course of receiving medical care. The infections can result in prolonged hospital stay, long-term disability, increased resistance to antibiotics and sometimes, death, the WHO said.

The global health body, in its initiative `Save lives: Clean your hands`, will focus on the importance of hand hygiene in hospitals and health care facilities to reduce healthcare-associated infections.

India`s 572 hospitals have joined the initiative where emphasis is laid on clean hands in healthcare. The WHO said these infections put newborns as a high-risk population in developing countries while neonatal infection rates are three to 20 times higher than in industrialized countries.

"Low and middle-income countries bear an additional burden due to poverty, lack of basic hygiene, limited resources, malnutrition, patient age under 1 year and low birth weight," the WHO said.

"General barriers to infection control practices are lack of financial support, inadequate numbers of trained personnel working in infection control, understaffed hospital units, and insufficient equipment and supplies," it added.