While getting medical treatment at a hospital, clinic or doctor’s office, you might get more than you bargained for. There’s a chance you might also get a new infection.

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The germs that cause health care-associated infections (HAI) can be spread in many ways, such as unclean hands of health care workers, inconsistent use of gloves, face masks or other protective gear, improper use or reuse of medical equipment or not keeping patients with certain resistant infections away from others.

At any one time, one in 25 hospital patients gets at least one HAI—and many of these infections are resistant to at least one of the drugs commonly used to treat them. Many of the most urgent and serious drug-resistant threats are health care-associated infections.

Other areas at risk

Resistant infections are also spread in health care settings such as dialysis facilities, surgery centers and nursing homes. And these germs can spread easily throughout a community as people are transferred from one facility to the next. Health care facilities can be more successful in stopping the spread of these costly and difficult-to-kill germs by working together.

  1. So what can you do right now? If you or a loved one is receiving care, take the following steps:

  2. Talk to your doctors and nurses about what they’re doing to protect you from infections.

  3. Be sure everyone cleans their hands thoroughly before touching you.

  4. If you do get an infection, ask what tests will be done to make sure you are prescribed the right antibiotic and take it exactly as your provider tells you.

  5. Discuss antibiotics with your doctor. Ask if an antibiotic is truly necessary for your condition.

  6. Tell your doctor if you have signs of infection such as redness, pain or drainage from a wound.

  7. Tell your doctor if you have three or more diarrhea episodes in 24 hours, especially if you are taking an antibiotic.

  8. Get vaccinated against flu and other infections. Prevention is better than treatment.

Taking action

The good news is that many of our nation’s top leaders in government, academia and private industry recognize the danger of antibiotic resistance, and are working together to stop these infections and slow antibiotic resistance. The White House National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria aims to preserve our arsenal of effective antibiotics and ensure that modern medical care will continue to protect us and future generations.

As part of this plan:

  • The President asked Congress to double the federal budget to combat antibiotic resistance, including investing an additional $264 million a year in CDC’s comprehensive Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative. This investment is estimated to avert nearly $8 billion in health care costs over the next five years.

  • More than 150 U.S. health care leaders gathered at the White House in June 2015 to commit to improving how we prescribe and use antibiotics to prevent new types of drug resistance.

  • Health departments and health care facilities have joined together in a coordinated approach to address infection control. Working together, over the next five years they could prevent more than a half million drug-resistant infections as well as C. difficile infections (which can cause diarrhea so severe that it is deadly).

These and other efforts—such as developing new antibiotics, better diagnostic tests and better ways of promoting the appropriate use of antibiotics, improving cooperation among hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices in order wield comprehensive tracking of antibiotic-resistant infections—will take time. CDC is committed to combating the threat of antibiotic resistance today and protecting the health of Americans for generations to come.