Infections picked up in hospitals kill nearly 100,000 people in the US every year and are on the rise, but some institutions seem to have found a remedy: simple hygiene. The Times visits the VA hospital in Pittsburgh, which has slashed the rate of virulent bacterial infections by using simple, cheap measures such as making hand sanitizer widely available.
With the cost of treating infected patients in the billions of dollars, prevention is both smart and cost-effective. Isolating patients with drug-resistant infections is another part of a strategy that has driven down the death rate in several European countries and a handful of US institutions. "We have shown you can do something about it," says a Pittsburgh VA official.