Increasingly, the hospital is becoming a dangerous place to spend time. Even if you are there for surgery and all goes smoothly, a superbug could get you, with very serious, life-altering consequences -- including possibly death.

Superbugs -- bacteria strains resistant to antibiotics -- are on the rise. Today, according to Dr. Philip Tierno, Director of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology at the Langone Medical Center at New York University, there are 2.5 million infections annually worldwide which result in about 100,000 needless deaths and cost billions of dollars in additional treatments.

One particularly deadly infection is MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus). While hospitals generally don't publicize cases of patients acquiring such superbugs, one incident was widely covered in the media two years ago. In that case, Alonzo Smith, an 18-year old high school football player in Kissimmee, Florida, became sick after being infected by MRSA. It was not clear where he first came in contact with the infection -- in the school's locker room or in the hospital. But it tragically killed the youngster.

One year before his death, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that MRSA causes 19,000 deaths every year in the U.S., which is more than HIV/AIDS causes. The study pointed out that the number was particularly ominous because 20% of those who get the bacteria die from it and increasingly, its victims are young, healthy people like Alonzo Smith.

Rising Cost of Superbugs

Then there is the cost of treating MRSA. A patient who contracts it while hospitalized stays an average 10 days longer and costs an additional $30,000.

Another superbug attacked a woman in central Florida a few years back. Claudia Meijia delivered her baby in the hospital. But the happy occasion became devastating. While she was there, she was infected by a flesh eating bacteria that became so bad, doctors had no choice but to amputate both her arms and legs to keep her alive.

The Most Feared Newcomer: NDM-1

Superbugs have been plaguing hospitals in the U.S. and around the world since the creation of antibiotics. As more antibiotics are used, superbugs acclimate to them, and become stronger.

While 1 in 10 people have the MRSA bacteria on their skin -- and don't necessarily become sick from it -- a new superbug, NDM-1 is now appearing in hospitals in the U.K and the U.S. It has quickly become one of the most feared infections. NDM - 1, discovered in New Delhi (hence the name New Delhi metallobeta-lactamase, or NDM-1) makes bacteria resistant to antibiotics. It can also jump from species to species and infect the gut or urinary tract. NDM-1 is rapidly spreading, with 37 new infections recently showing up in hospitals in the U.K. and 140 cases in India and Pakistan.

"Globalization is a driver," says NYU's Dr. Tierno. "Americans go to India because it's cheaper to get some surgical procedures done there, but then they pick up various strains and spread them."

A Promising New Way to Kill Superbugs

How can superbugs be controlled? One of the latest attacks on killer infections comes from Newark, N.J -based BioNeutral Group, which has developed a sterilizing compound called Ygiene, which is designed to quickly and inexpensively help hospitals to kill superbugs. Chief Scientist at BioNeutral, Andrew Kielbania, says that Ygiene can kill superbugs faster and more cost effectively than alternative methods. So far, the product has been approved for sale as a disinfectant in Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Sweden. It is waiting for approval from the EPA -- expected in January -- before it can be used in the U.S.

In the meantime, there are other products such as antimicrobials and bleach that can destroy superbugs. But they can take a long time to work. Bleach, in particular, is toxic, so many doctors and nurses are averse to using it. In addition, bleach can be costly since after a certain amount of use, hospitals have to shut down wings to repair rooms and equipment. Ygiene, which comes in a variety of formats, has not had any negative side effects in hospitals.

Best Approach: Rigorous Hygiene

Perhaps the best attack against the superbugs is rigorous hygiene. Superbugs can be transmitted by doctors and nurses who have not properly washed their hands and by ventilators and catheters that have not been cleaned properly.

Dr.Tierno says the Scandinavian countries serve as a model. There, hospitals are known for meticulously cleaning and disinfecting rooms and equipment between patients, for testing incoming patients for superbugs to ensure they are not bringing anything in to the hospital, and for taking simple steps such as making sure beds don't butt up against each other so infections don't spread. Another important strategy: No routine use of antibiotics so that infections don't become resistant to any particular one.

Eight Superbugs That Could Kill You

MRSA -- Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus
MRSA or Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus is one of the most recognized superbugs around. Since it is very difficult to treat, it can be deadly. It is associated with urinary tract infections, bone and joint infection and can result in ruptured abscesses which are difficult to heal. It has been identified in health care settings, homes, locker rooms, gyms and schools. Mortality Rate: About 35%.

Resistant Streptococcus
This flesh eating bacteria infects when surgery or deep wounds are exposed to germs on the skin. Thousands of people every year become infected by Strep A, which releases toxins that can shut down organs. But others are infected with the strain that turns into flesh eating disease. The fastest way to stop it is to cut the skin off. Mortality Rate: About 28%.

Vancomycin Resistant Enterococcus
This superbug isn't all that dangerous -- as long as it doesn't get into your urinary tract or seep into an open wound. Then, it can become life threatening. VRE, as it is known, is a leading cause of urinary tract infections and meningitis. If this gets you while you are undergoing surgery, it could kill you. Mortality Rate: About 40%.

Resistant Klebsiella Pneumonia
The most famous strain of this bacteria is also the newest and most feared: NDM-1. Klebsiella pneumonia is often associated with extremely difficult to treat blood stream infections, surgical site infections and meningitis. It has a high mortality rate even with antimicrobial therapy. The rate goes up even more for individuals with alcoholism and bacteria in the blood. Mortality Rate: over 50%.

Resistant Pseudomonas Aeruginosa
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a bacterium commonly found in soil and water. But if it gets into you through a break in the skin, it can turn deadly. The superbug, associated with lung, kidney and blood infections, is particularly serious in patients hospitalized with cancer, cystic fibrosis and burns. It causes urinary tract infections, respiratory system infections, bone and joint infections among many others. Mortality Rate: near 50%.

Resistant E. coli
This is a new, virulent drug resistant strain of E.Coli and it poses a significant public threat. It is associated with gastrointestinal infections and dehydration. It comes from feces of an animal coming into contact with food products. A particular problem right now is its interference with drugs used to treat bladder infections. The deadly strain could be responsible for more than 3,000 deaths per year.

Resistant Acinetobacter Baumannii
Infections by A. baumannii tend to happen most in immunosupressed patients with underlying diseases. The superbug also attacks patients having invasive treatments in the hospital. It can cause severe central nervous system infections, meningitis and ventriculitis, especially in patients undergoing head trauma. It is also associated with blood and urinary tract infections and pneumonia. Mortality rate: approaching 80%.

Clostridium Difficile
More commonly known as C.diff, this bacterium is passed in feces and spread to food and other objects when people infected do not wash their hands well. The bacteria generates spores that are very difficult to eliminate. Once the infection spreads, it produces toxins that attack the lining of the intestine. Symptoms include diarrhea to inflammation of the colon, which can lead to death. Among those most likely to come down with the disease are older adults in hospitals or long-term care facilities. Mortality rate: Up to 25% in elderly, frail patients.

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There is even a better system for killing super bugs in indoor and outdoor areas that does not require an operator in a HAZMAT suit to apply. OdorXit Products has a series of CLO2 products that produce stabilized CLO2 in water and CLO2 gas at levels appropriate for short term (24 hour) high dose applications and long term low dose applications. All will kill the above mentioned super bugs without making them even more resistant. It is time to stop hoping for a super antibiotic that will be effective against these and other super bug when there is an safe, easy to use alternative already available. If you are at all concerned about preventing super bug infections check this out.

January 11 2011 at 4:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would seriously look at this system of using broad area coverage of a clo2 formula currently available through SmartTouch Sanitizing. It kills superbugs with ZERO toxicity. A EPA Registered, NSF certified "Hospital Disinfectant". Thrid party certified to eliminate ALL OF THE ABOVE, some in 10 seconds, WITH NO RISK OF CREATING SUPERBUGS. Safety? Try an EPA Tox rating of CATIV, LD5000. ( In comparision home odor control products have an LD50 ) 866-863-4108

October 20 2010 at 7:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dawn M. Ohlund

A well written article, especially for the lay person. I posted it to my fb page. As a RN washing hands "going in/going out" is my practice. Physicians and nurses need to be asked by patients if they are not using this practice, it is their/your right. We have begun to nasal swab every patient that comes into the ICU for MRSA, it is done within hours of their admission, and results are reported in hours, not days. Then the patient is put on "precautions" and staff wear gloves, gowns and masks when entering their room. The cost of swabbing outweighs the cost of treating.

October 18 2010 at 6:54 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Janna Voigt

As an RN at a busy hospital, I "wash in" "wash out" of each patient's room as I am doing my rounds and med passes. If you as a patient don't see your nurse or doctor wash their hands, ask them to do it. We won't be offended. It's part of our job, and while nurses are much more compliant than doctors, hand washing remains an issue. It's our job to get you better, so dont be afraid to ask!

October 17 2010 at 11:24 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Janna Voigt's comment

Well, I'm glad that you say you wash in/ wash out. Elvis, a nurse at the CCU in Orlando Regional Medical Center said once when we pointed out to him that he didn't wash in "ugh, it's so redundant. I just foamed up outside." Hmmm.... 4 days later my dad is diagnosed with VRE. He had overed the pneumonia that sent him there, gotten off the vent & things were looking up until he spiked a fever a couple days later & then we got the diagnoses of VRE. Most likely, thanks to Elvis @ ORMC, I never got to tell my dad goodbye.

October 19 2010 at 7:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is no big deal. Just use the Republicans Health Care plan___Which is don't get sick.

October 17 2010 at 10:14 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Our American Health care system is overwhelmed with poor, sick and health care professionals that are rushing from pt. to pt. to stay up with the workload. Infections are spread in all of our hospitals, clinics and ER's. the cost is too high, and those at risk pts. are dying. We need to do more for preventive health care and where possible use at-home services. If pts. had better access in the first place, our ER's wouldn't become the equivalent of doctors offices. WE also demand our health care professionals give us mega doses of antibiotics for every conceivable problem.. We demand it from them, and if they don't give out antibiotics like water, we threaten to sue them. the super bugs out there are very, very smart and adapt so quickly. We better rethink our health care methodology or the morbidity rate will climb rapidly.

October 17 2010 at 8:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to rlustba343's comment

so scary, and I know this is now joke!

October 17 2010 at 10:59 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Janna Voigt

We're already there....the over-prescription of antibiotics is a massive problem that we are now seeing the effects of. For the so-called "superbugs" we do have antibiotics that work, but very few. MRSA is susceptible to Vancomycin and Merim. Flagyl works on C.Diff. I actually havent seen much VRE lately. But MRSA is everywhere. Handwashing and following guidelines for personal protective gear for patients with MRSA are key to protect other patients. Of course, one of the problems is....we don't know the patient has MRSA until 4, 5 days into their hospital stay. They've been getting ineffective antibiotics, and the staff has not been wearing masks and gloves. Now the patients roomate has been exposed. And the infection has jumped. It's a HUGE problem in hospitals.

October 17 2010 at 11:36 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I have been fighting MRSA since 2007. It started as sores on my legs--which required 3 different hospital stays. As time progressed, it affected my heart. I have now been diagnosed with cardio-myopathy. I have had 4 surgeries on my feet due to the complications---including the apmutation of 2 toes. I still cannot get my feet to completely heal--and am in constant worry about what will happen next. Feel free to email me with thoughts and your stories.

October 17 2010 at 8:26 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
6 replies to JRacefan24's comment

" stay is 10 days longer and costs an additional $30,000." You wanted to know the reason why we have a health-care crisis in the U.S.? It costs $3,000 A DAY to be treated in the hospital for infection, intervenous drip, 3 meals, nurse/doctor direct attention for less than 30 minutes? Give me a break. Whether the government pays or an insurance company pays, we can not sustain these outrageous costs. Nobody seems to be talking about why health costs are so ridiculous, only who will pay the tab.

October 17 2010 at 8:16 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to casey0272's comment

my hospital stays were on the average of 5 days---nearly $50,000. That dos NOT include the cost of home health care---and loss of income due to the seriousness of the illness.

October 17 2010 at 8:28 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Ok..get this..I work in a hospital..have so for 35 you think they've tested us for MRSA...HELL NO...and they wonder why they can't get it under control..enough said!

October 17 2010 at 11:19 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

what also concerns me about hand washing is whether it's done properly. Most people wet their hand put the soap on and immediately put their hands under water, thereby washing the soap off and directly into the water. There's nothing left on the hands to actually soap up. My method for washing hands is to put soap on my hands before water then rub the soap vigerously over all of my hands (not just fingers) count thirty then rinse. I push the faucet (if type) down with my wrist and then dry my hands. I never let go of the towel until I'm out of the bathroom door. I have a type of cancer that is affecting my immune system and know that it will help if I keep my hands scrupulousy clean. (and hope others do the same) my doctor pointed out to me the other day that one of the least observed places that carry hundreds of germs are, hold it, RESTURANT MENUS and lets not forget the handles of shopping carts remember little children are placed in them with snotty noses from colds and adults. Carrying a hand santizer with you at all times is a good investment. I expect I'll have to face staying in hospital in the not too distant future and to the person who put wash your hands sign on their door and iv just did me an enormous favour. Many,many thanks

October 17 2010 at 6:48 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to dazey1st's comment

It is common practice to wash restaurant menus every day, clean them if they become soiled. Fir that expressed reason. What about people who handle garbage at home. Do they always wash their hands after wards? Do you wash your hands before you put the groceries away after you come home from the store? I was in the health care industry. Whenever I finish a project I wash my hands. Without thinking about it, the next time you could be grabbing potato chips or pretzels right out of the bag.

October 18 2010 at 1:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Dear Dazey1st, I wish you the best of luck in your illness and if you have to go into the hospital, can you have you doctor claen your room for second time. My first room in the SICU had no window and was so depressing. He ordereded a room change but had it scrubbed the day before I was put in it. Even though I had contracted MRSA within days of my surgery, and all the awful side effects, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, sepsis, but after I woke from my three and a falf month medicinal coma, I still contracted fungal pnemonia - probabably from the ventilator I was still hooked to and a few other things He surely didn't want me to come into contact with MRSA again. So many excellent coments above - CSW4077 wow, I can't believe they do not test the staff. I thought they were up on top of that because remember a few years back when hospitals stopped nurses from having acrilyic nails? They found MRSA even after they scrubbed in the crevaces of their long fake nails. SSAGGE - I hope that this new drug in Canada works and is soon available dowwn here. Vancoymicin did nothing for my MRSA. AND thank you MUDMUSCLECAROL for your kind words and thoughts. I wouldn't wish an ordeal like this on anyone, picture yourself - eye's taped shut, tubes going itno your neck from the ventilator so you are unable to ask a question, can't speak a word and your hands in soft restraints so you don't pull out your NG tube. Even after I woke for good, I had to lay like this for another 5 weeks thinking I was in a car crash and that my children had been hurt or worse. They gave me a yellow pad of paper with a pencil taped to it with that white medical tape. Now, I just woke from a three and a half month coma, that pencil was so hard to push on that paper to ask how my girls were. I just thought a ball point pen or a marker would have been better. My family should have brought in a small dry erase board. But, most likely I wouldn't be able to have handled it in case it was dirty. When I was discharged all my gifts were in boxes and letters. I'd give anything to be at a normal 43 year olds health level. I tire easily, My back is so still messed up as a hemivertebra has never been fixed and they want me to have surgery and I am too aftraid to. Also, they should do these nasal swabs days before when they do most the pre op testing like chest x-rays and blood work. Well, I'm happy many things are trying to remedy these horrible hospital born super bugs - but think how many died first. I had my surgery in 1994 and when I'd try an explain what happened to me, as I have scars from the trach on my neck, people looked at me like I hade three heads. As, hospitals are still keeping their patients catching these bugs in their hospitals under wraps. I am gratful that the word is getting out. Bless you all. Ellen Karman

October 19 2010 at 2:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My name is Ellen Karman and in 1994 I went into the hospital to have sections of my first and second ribs removed. A few days after the operation, my life changed forever. We had never heard of MRSA or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome nor dreamed of all the other complications that followed as I lay in a coma, hooked to life support for three and a half months! Up until then, we always thought the safest place to be was in the hospital. Now we know better - it's one of the most dangerous and dirtiest places to stay if it can be avoided. I entered as a healthy twenty-seven year old woman who had just had my second child. Other than having two ribs out of place due to scoliosis, I was never sick or hospitalized for an illness, only for back operations in my teen years. My surgeon thought I'd be out in three days tops after the operation and he said "it would be nothing compared to the two painful back operations I had already gone through." I felt confident. That confidense thankfully never returned as medicine is a practice not a science. I spiked a fever on the third morning after my surgery and by that night I was rushed to the SICU with two collapsed lungs, MRSA, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome followed by speticemia (blood poisoning) and many other horrifying complications. it was decided I be put into a drug induced coma to rest my body, let it heal and have it use as little oxygen as possible - also to chemically paralize me so I wouldn't fight the ventilator. Many times the very treatments they were having to give me to save my life and deal with each complication - was very close to actually killing me. I suffered eight cardiac arrests requirering full ACLS protocols (Acute Cardiac Life Support) - CPR, Catheters going directly into my heart to quickly administer life saving medicines and shocks to my heart. My lungs collapsed twnty-seven times due to the ventilator forcing high pressure Oxygen into my lungs. The problem was my lungs weren't able to exchange oxygen for carbon monoxide. My blood clotted, my hands and feet turned black as my body sacrificed my limbs for the more important organs such as my heart and brain. My hands and feet eventually got better except for my left middle finger that eventually had to be amputated due to gangreen. Luckily I was at a large teaching hospital, which I suggest because they have the latest technology and studies and this served me well when my chances of survival were nill, my doctor suggested to my husband an esperimental treatment, not close to being approved by the FDA, but he had read about it beening tried on a one pound premature baby in Boston and it helped the babys lungs exchange gases. The hospital only allowed it because all options had been exhausted in trying to save me and death was imenent. The Hospital called the experimental treatment "for compassionate use only." There was another treatment they thought I might benefit from but I would have had to be flown to Michigan and I wouldn't have survived as just turning me in my bed sent me into severe distress. So, my husband signed a stack of legal papers stating he wouldn't sue the hospital for any side effects from the expirement. Then the doctors warned him they were worried I wouldn't survive long enough for them to gather the equiptment and gasses. I did, and within ten minutes of hooking me up to the expiremental treatment, my lungs relaxed and that allowed the oxyen to exchange into carbon monoxide. They said it was a band aid in effect but it hopefully bought me more time to heal and it did. But, I know all of this could have been avoided had the staff washed their hands before touching me. My family, in hindsight, remembered the first few days -how many doctors and nurses who didn't wash thier hands or even put on gloves or show up in my room with gloves on from the room next door. Luckily and thank God I survived. I was left with some short term memory problems, nerve damage in my left hand and a 1.9 million dollar bill! when one of my kids has to go in the hospital, I stay and make sure the staff washes their hands - I don't care if I offend some doctor and I also post a note on the door reading "wash hands right after entering," then another note on the I.V. pole reading "did you wash your hands?" This is incase I fall asleep. If you come away from one thing from my story let it please be that a family member stay and advocate for the patient and to make sure EVERYONE washes their hands! Such a simple thing but, with no antibiotics left to treat these super bugs it can save thousands of lives. Thank you for writing this article as hositals don't advertise how many young healthy people enter the hospital for a proceedure and either don't come home or are missing limbs or have brain damage. I got very, very lucky! Ellen Karman

October 17 2010 at 2:32 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to elck1228's comment

Thank you, Ellen. You had a terrible ordeal, and it cost you dearly. Best wishes to you.

October 17 2010 at 10:45 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I noticed that some people who are health care providers are not as diligent about clean hands. I told a nurse about it once. Why didn't you wash your hands? She shrugged me off. And walking patient to patient with the same gloves on. I say it is their responsiblity to provide the patient with a safe enviornment. I have no problem saying it either. I see the alcohol pumps on the walls now as you enter the room. They say that after a while the alcohol compound is not effective anymore. Turn the incident into the State Board of Health regarding hospitals. A family member was in the hospital and one of the nurses gave her the meds for the male patient in the room next store. He got hers. They refused to tell her what they gave her. She was fighting cancer. We flipped the hospital incident to the State Baord. They went in and investigated it. They failed inspection on several other things. Tell the Board the truth and let them check it out. My cousin caught encephilitis, menengitis and polio in a hospital in one stay. My biggest pet is the wearing of perfume and cologne on health care workers. I am allergic to it. I am going to write to the State Board to tell them how horrifing it is to have to breathe in perfume which closes up my lungs while I am in the hospital for pnuemonia. I am glad you are relatively in better health. I hope the best for you.

October 18 2010 at 2:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply