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by Yaneer Bar-Yam
Step VI: Create Disinfection Gateways
Hand washing by care providers is a key part of preventing pathogen transmission.

Infections acquired in hospitals, known as HAIs or nosocomial infections, are often resistant to antibiotics and thus particularly dangerous. Each year, the estimated 1.7 million infections cause nearly 100,000 deaths in the United States. Many patients in hospitals, nursing homes and clinics become sicker from these infections than they were before they sought care. These infections also play a significant role in costs—HAI hospital costs alone were recently estimated at between $30 and $45 billion.

Current recommendations for reducing hospital-acquired infections target the patient's immediate environment and interactions with care providers. Hand washing by care providers before and after patient contact is a key part of protocols in patient-focused transmission prevention. The wide variety of other measures include identifying patients who enter the hospital with infections for additional isolation, extra care to avoid catheter-associated infections, and augmented surface sanitation—of bed rails and controls, light switches, partition screens, faucet handles, and the like.

Collectively, recommended protocols have been shown to reduce transmission, are cost effective and could be more widely adopted. Still, the attention and effort involved are significant and progress in eliminating infections is slow.

Underlying the widespread prevalence and difficulty in addressing these infections is the large number of contacts between care providers and patients. Because there are so many contacts, the effort involved in making every contact safe is huge and this effort burdens already busy care providers.

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