The Fear of Infection


Let’s be honest, we’re all completely terrified of Ebola. This disease is all you hear about on the news, all you see posted about on social media, and all anyone talks about regarding current events. However, whether or not this terror is rational or not, this is not a new pattern. This same cycle of panic spread throughout the country for diseases such as Bird Flu, West Nile, and Anthrax. Once one of these rapidly spreading endemics is reported to exist somewhere in the world, an irrational fear arises and the media takes advantage of this human nature and capitalizes on it. The media runs with our fear of contracting a potentially fatal illness, while there are many, more common, things to fear. One example of a large cause of death that goes widely under exposed is infections spread through hospitals.

This article touches on the fact that deaths caused by infections contracted at a hospital, separate from what the patient is treated for, are much more common than we realize. The point of this article is to provide a method through which the media can better spread light on this issue and obtain factual evidence. Some of this evidence was very shocking to me. The current database attributes 125,000 deaths to infection cases in specific hospitals. There exist six categories of these infections: central-line associated bloodstream infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, staph bacteria, intestinal infections, infections near the site of a hysterectomy surgery, and infections near the site of a colon surgery. Journalists can find specific data on each hospital and its infection statistics.

Why is this issue not better publicized to warn people of the hazards involved in hospital visits and emergency care? It is interesting to think whether this is intentional or not. Is it better that we do not know of these risks before getting treated at a hospital? Hospitals are not something that we can do without and it seems as though they are doing their best to prevent these infections. The last recorded data from the CDC stopped in 2013 and most hospitals claim that their stats have gotten better since then. I believe that patients have the right to know this information and the history of infection spread at the hospital before electing to seek treatment there. To make an informed and safe decision about where he/she will be treated, a patient should be provided with all of the potential risks.

The media is so focused on instilling fear and panic about diseases that are proving to be rare in the US that they are not focused on more realistic threats. Would it be harmful for the media to shed light on these hospital risks? If these occasional infections are unavoidable in hospital processes, would it just create unnecessary fear in patients if they did know of the statistics of risk? Media can often have an effect on people’s emotions and decisions so shattering their confidence in hospitals could result in very negative impacts.

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4 responses to “The Fear of Infection

  1. It is troubling that the media plays on our emotions and fears. Imagine a news channel that only reported positive news. Would that not be a refreshing change? Hospital infections are serious, and as you noted, very much uncovered by major news outlets.

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    • A positive news outlet would be an awesome change. If you check the front pages of any major media source, you are likely to find news of horrible events like disease, murders and rapes. How would positive news change the way we view the world? Would people even want such a thing or are we too hooked on the negativity?

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  2. I think that the difficulty with posting these statistics is in the presentation. If these types of stories were to reach mainstream media sources I imagine that they would be overly dramatized and potentially turn into more fear mongering type articles rather than a source of information. However, I do see the benefit of knowing which hospitals have better track records with post-surgery infections and other preventable deaths. Publication of these stats could bring about a better attention to detail by the hospitals than they are already paying. Is there a way to present these facts without creating unnecessary fear, like you said?

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