Hand hygiene critical for reducing sepsis

2 May 2018 | Infection Prevention & Control

The number of children being admitted to New Zealand paediatric intensive care units with severe infections, including sepsis, has increased over the last 10 years, says the Health Quality & Safety Commission. About four percent of these children die.

Prevention of sepsis is the theme for the World Health Organization’s Hand Hygiene Day on Saturday 5 May, with the theme ‘It’s in your hands – prevent sepsis in health care’.

The Commission’s infection prevention and control programme clinical lead, Dr Sally Roberts, says international evidence is clear that improved hand hygiene practices help reduce health care-associated infections, including antibiotic-resistant infections within hospitals.

‘Hand hygiene is the simplest, most effective way to prevent the spread of health care-associated infections, so it’s important that everyone working in the health sector practices good hand hygiene. Clean hands save lives.’

Dr Roberts says of those admitted to paediatric intensive care units, babies aged 0-28 days had the biggest increase in total cases of invasive infection because they are too young to be vaccinated against vaccine-preventable diseases.

‘One reason for the increase in severe infections in older children is an increase in the number of invasive skin and soft tissue infections.

‘Advances in paediatric cancers and haematological malignancies are also leading to more severe immunosuppression and therefore increased infection risk, and there are also more children with co-morbidities.’

Dr Roberts says about 10 percent of adults admitted to intensive care units have severe sepsis.

‘For the majority, sepsis developed before they were admitted to hospital. While the rate of death from severe sepsis or septic shock in adults has decreased over the last couple of decades, it’s still around 4.6 percent.’

Dr Roberts says it’s is not uncommon for someone to seem completely well one day, and be very sick with sepsis, or even septic shock, 48 hours later. ‘The risk of death is significant if sepsis leads to septic shock, with approximately 40 percent of septic shock patients dying, even with treatment.’

One Waikato study found 10 percent of patients admitted to hospital because of infection had sepsis. Around 17 percent of these patients were admitted to intensive care units and nearly 34 percent of them died.

More information about hand hygiene is available on the Commission’s website.

Last updated 30/07/2018