When we think of hospitals, the image that comes to mind is often a place of healing. Save for those suffering from a chronic and progressive disease, no one expects to leave a hospital sicker than when they arrived. Sadly, this happens far more often than most of us realize.

Hospital-acquired infections are a serious and widespread problem. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that an estimated 75,000 patients die each year in the United States from infections they were exposed to in health care facilities. Because germs, bacteria and viruses evolve and become resistant to normal treatment methods, hospitals cannot fully prevent the spread of disease. In many cases, however, hospital negligence is to blame for disease outbreaks that result in numerous fatalities.

A particularly horrific example was recently discussed in the New York Times. In 2008 and 2009, five young patients died with similar symptoms at Children’s Hospital in New Orleans. It took doctors 10 months after the first death to realize that the cases were connected and to identify the enemy they were facing. All five children had been killed by mucormycosis, a flesh-eating fungal infection acquired at the hospital.

There were several likely problems that allowed the outbreak to spread. An investigation revealed that contaminated and soiled linens were transported on the same carts as clean ones. Additionally, clean linens were unloaded on the same dock as the one where medical waste was removed. There may have also been other lapses in the hospital’s infection control procedures.

Due to alleged hospital negligence, five children lost their lives, and the manner in which they died was reportedly painful and filled with suffering. This is only one case, but it demonstrates the much larger problem of hospital-acquired infections and disease outbreaks.

If you lost a loved one in the hospital under mysterious circumstances, there may be something the hospital hasn’t told you. If you suspect that a hospital-acquired infection was to blame or that the health care facility was negligent in some other way, please share your concerns with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

Source: The New York Times, “A Deadly Fungus and Questions at a Hospital,” Ian Urbina and Sheri Fink, April 28, 2014