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The interesting thing about disease caused by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa is that the most serious infections occur in hospital and healthcare facilities. People go to these places to address their health issues, but most of them may not be aware that they are also exposing themselves to serious risks of bacterial infection. The bacterium is easily spread – it can come from doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers who were not able to properly clean and sterilise their hands, or from medical equipment that have been contaminated. It enters the lungs, infecting and damaging its lining and causing other complications.

Most common sources of Pseudomonas aeruginosa

Exposure to Pseudomonas aeruginosa is said to be one of the most common causes of infection of patients who have been confined in hospitals for more than one week. The risk becomes even greater when the patient is using a breathing machine that has been contaminated with the bacteria. Patients who have received catheters, patients undergoing wound recovery from surgery, and patients with burn wounds should also be closely monitored for signs ofPseudomonas aeruginosa infection. When infected, the patient can succumb to pneumonia and blood complications, among others. 

As most people confined in hospitals have weakened immune systems due to their medical condition, the medications they are taking or the medical procedures they are undergoing, the impact of the infection to their health and body can be devastating. Serious Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection can lead to severe illness and death.   

Exposure in public spaces and everyday activities

Meanwhile, there are also potential infection risks outside the hospital, and people who are normally healthy can also develop illnesses from exposure. Some of the medical issues after exposure to water contaminated with the bacteria include ear infections and skin rashes, which are usually traced to public bathing venues such as swimming pools and hot tubs that were not properly cleaned and chlorinated.

Other complications caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection include: endocarditis (infection in the heart valves commonly seen in intravenous drug users), widespread infection in the central nervous system, meningitis, eye infections (usually associated with long-term contact lens wear and trauma), skin and nail infections.

Preventive steps

The primary preventive measure against infection is to make sure water sources are tested and disinfected regularly. There are now water testing kits that are inexpensive, easy to use and will bring back fasts results that can guide immediate action. Through information gained from the test, the facility managers and homeowners can make the next necessary steps to minimise exposure and to maintain a safe and disease-free environment.

+Duncan Hollis