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Tap water is potential threat for hospital patients

People enter a Michigan hospital for medical treatment and with the hope of being healed. They most likely do not expect to encounter an additional infection or illness because of the drinking water. And yet, occasionally, that is what happens.

Researchers at Central Michigan University have been looking into the lack of testing of hospital tap water and the potential threat or hospital error of acquiring an infection. The patients most at risk are infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

According to their nationwide research, only 9.9 percent of hospitals test on a daily basis, and 15.8 percent only test on an annual basis. The Michigan group recommends testing tap water on a daily basis to look for waterborne pathogens. These hospital-contracted pathogens could cause illnesses in patients who are already vulnerable.

According to the Center for disease Control and Prevention, about 2 million people acquire an infection in a hospital, and 10 percent of them die.

The CMU researchers recommended that hospital patients take precautions to protect themselves from contacting a pathogen in the tap water.

  • Drink only bottled water.
  • Don't use hospital showers unless they have a filter.
  • Be aware of the places where tap water is used, such as humidifiers, flower vases, therapy spas, drinking fountains and whirlpools.

If a patient is sickened or dies as a result of a hospital acquired infection, the hospital can be held liable for damages and potentially for pain and suffering. The CMU researchers are recommending a nationwide increase in testing standards for hospital tap water.

Source: WNEM.com, "CMU researchers call for testing of hospital tap water," Craig McMorris, March 26, 2012

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