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A. baumannii is an opportunistic infection that rarely occurs outside of the hospital setting. It tends to target people who have compromised immune systems or who recently suffered a traumatic injury that left them with open wounds. People who do get infected with A. baumannii bacteria can have difficulty fighting the infection, especially if the infection compromises an organ like the heart, brain, or lungs.
Stopping the spread of A. baumannii is something that hospitals are in the best position to do. In fact, when compared to hospitals, patients are nearly powerless to prevent an infection.
When hospitals fail to keep their patients from getting infected with A. baumannii, you may be entitled to compensation for their lack of care or their negligent oversight. The personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can help you build your case and can advocate on your behalf if you were infected with A. baumannii at a hospital in Philadelphia.
A. Baumannii Infections
Acinetobacter baumannii is a recently-discovered bacteria that relatively little is known about. Researchers are unsure if A. baumannii has been around for a long time and no one knew about it, or if it has evolved from other types of bacteria into its current form. They even disagree about where its natural habitat is or where it comes from.
What is known about A. baumannii, though, is that this type of bacteria is an opportunistic infector that is often beaten by strong immune systems. Healthy people are rarely infected with A. baumannii, while people who are fighting off some other disease or who have an avenue of infiltration – like an open wound or an implant – can get infected easily.
Those who do get infected by A. baumannii face an uphill battle because the bacteria seem to be resistant to a wide range of antibiotics that usually handle hospital-acquired infections. Not only does this mean that it is difficult to find an antibiotic regimen that will treat an A. baumannii infection, but it also means that infected patients are likely to go several days before they receive any treatment for their condition, at all.
Causes of A. Baumannii
While A. baumannii has been found in soil and water samples, it is at its strongest in hospital settings. There, it can live on hard surfaces, from which it can infect people with compromised immune systems or who have open wounds by indirect contact – someone touches the contaminated area and then directly handles the eventual victim, or they touch something else that is used by the eventual victim. Once this process begins, the infection can spread rapidly: Doctors or hospital staffers who come into contact with A. baumannii spores can infect numerous patients in a single day.
Research seems to suggest that A. baumannii thrives in hospitals precisely because so many antibiotics are used in those environments. The antibiotics kill off the other bacteria, allowing the antibiotic-resistant A. baumannii to grow unchecked. A. baumannii can then spread from hospital to hospital if an infected patient is moved from one facility to another.
This may explain why the rise of A. baumannii has been so sudden. Medical researchers think that the bacteria reached the U.S. through infections of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Army hospital logistics moved wounded soldiers numerous times during their recovery process, giving bacteria ample opportunity to infect open wounds that were still unhealed.
Risk Factors of A. Baumannii
People who are especially vulnerable to an infection of A. baumannii include:
- Anyone with an immune system compromised by a medical condition or medication
- People currently on wide-range antibiotics, as these can kill helpful internal bacteria that could have helped fend off A. baumannii
- People with open wounds, including soldiers or anyone with a recent traumatic injury
- Hospital patients who have an implant, like a catheter, ventilator tube, or IV
- Patients who have recently had an invasive surgical procedure done
Symptoms of an A. Baumannii Infection
A. baumannii infections carry symptoms that are similar to other bacterial infections, including:
- Shortness of breath
- Breathing problems
- Chest pain
- Redness, swelling, or tenderness around open wounds
- Trouble sleeping
These symptoms make A. baumannii infections difficult to correctly diagnose. Doctors often have to wait for a lab culture to get processed before they can diagnose an A. baumannii infection.
Medical Complications of an A. Baumannii Infection
Where the A. baumannii infection occurs can make a huge difference in the prognosis.
When the infection only impacts the skin or an open wound, the long-term repercussions are relatively light.
However, if the infection gets worse or compromises internal organs, it can cause serious or life-threatening medical complications. Examples include:
- Urinary tract infections. When A. baumannii enters the urinary tract, often through an indwelling catheter, it can compromise the kidneys and cause serious damage.
- Blood infections. A. baumannii can infect the bloodstream, often gaining access through an IV or by spreading from an open wound.
- Pneumonia, or lung infections. Ventilator tubes that have been compromised with A. baumannii spores can cause pneumonia, or lung infections.
- Meningitis, or infections of the spinal cord. Less common, but also extremely severe, infections of A. baumannii in the spinal cord or the brain can cause inflammation that can cause nerve and brain damage.
A. Baumannii in Philadelphia Hospitals
Hospitals need to take extra precautions to prevent outbreaks of A. baumannii from happening in their facilities. This involves rigorous cleaning policies and can also require healthcare facilities to test incoming patients who have open wounds for A. baumannii bacteria.
However, a lot of hospitals – including those in the Philadelphia area – do not take these responsibilities seriously. Their negligent conduct can put patients at severe risk of contracting a potentially life-threatening infection.
If you or a loved one has gone to a Philadelphia hospital and ended up acquiring an A. baumannii infection while there, you may be entitled to compensation because there was nothing that you could have done to prevent it. The medical malpractice lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can help you recover it. Contact them online to get started.