LONDON (Reuters) - On any given day, some 80,000 patients in Europe are fighting an infection they picked up in hospital, often while in intensive care, the EU's disease monitoring agency said in a survey published on Thursday.
Although some of these infections can be treated easily, others - like the superbug MRSA and other drug-resistant bugs - can be fatal or affect patients' health very seriously, taking several months of costly hospital care and medication to beat.
A survey by the European Centre for Diseases Prevention and Control (ECDC) found that on any given day, one in 18 patients in European hospitals has at least one hospital-acquired infection - amounting to around 3.2 million patients per year.
"Healthcare-associated infections pose a major public health problem and a threat to European patients," said Marc Sprenger, director of the Stockholm-based ECDC.
He said many of these infections could be prevented by well thought-out, sustained and multi-pronged prevention and control programs and he urged hospitals to step up the fight.
"Such programs, as well as prudent use of antibiotics, will help all actors involved to protect the patients of European hospitals," he said in a statement.
The ECDC warned last year that doctors are increasingly having to turn to last-ditch antibiotics due to growing drug-resistant superbug infections in Europe - many of them acquired in hospitals.
The latest survey, which covered 1,000 hospitals in 30 European countries, found the highest rates of hospital-acquired infections were among patients admitted to intensive care units, where 19.5 percent of patients had at least one bug they had picked up from the hospital.