LOS ANGELES - We count on hospitals to make us well, but they can also be a breeding ground for serious infections. Consumer Reports has been tracking hospital infection records and have essential advice to help you survive a hospital stay.
The numbers are shocking -- 650,000 patients develop an infection in the hospital, and 75,000 die, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Germs concentrate in hospitals and can be easily spread there. C. diff. and MRSA are two dangerous bacterial infections and are very difficult to treat," said Ellen Kunes, chief health editor at Consumer Reports.
Kellie Pearson knows firsthand how serious C. difficile can be.
"When I got home, one of the surgical nurses I talked to said, 'You know, we had other people and a couple of them died. We were concerned you were going to,'" Pearson said.
Which hospital you go to can make a difference. Consumer Reports' new hospital ratings show some hospitals do a much better job of preventing some types of infections than others.
"We've been looking at this data since 2009, and we see how some hospitals are able to prevent infections, so we really know that it's possible," said Doris Peter with Consumer Reports' Health Ratings Center.
Cleanliness is key, but patients can also take steps to keep themselves safe.
"Ask everyone who enters the room to wash their hands with soap and water. Hand sanitizer may not be enough to destroy some dangerous bacteria," Kunes said.
Ask if you can postpone surgery if you have any type of infection. A weakened immune system increases your risk of a new infection.
IVs and catheters can also lead to infections, so ask daily if they are still needed.
Also, try to have a friend or family member be your advocate - especially at night and on the weekends.
To view Consumer Reports' full list of hospital ratings, visit http://www.consumerreports.org/hospitalratings.
Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization that does not accept advertising and does not have any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.