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The current goal to reduce sickness and death from infections that patients acquire in hospitals has created a renewed focus on identifying ways to reduce the problem at its source. Hospital water for drinking, bathing, showering, to make ice cubes or to rinse medical equipment is increasingly being recognized as a significant source of microbes that may contribute to many of these life-threatening infections.

Infection control practitioners, scientists and epidemiologists convened to review this problem at the annual meeting of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) in Los Angeles. Joseph Cervia, MD, a leading infectious disease expert, professor of Clinical Medicine and Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Medical Director of Pall Corporation (NYSE: PLL) presented the latest information on water as an emerging threat in the healthcare environment.

"Infections acquired in hospitals and healthcare institutions affect approximately two million people resulting in about 98,000 deaths at a cost of $29 billion in the United States each year," said Dr. Cervia. "We know that tap water, previously unrecognized as a source of many of these infections, harbors pathogenic microorganisms that can pose a significant health threat to patients, especially those with weakened immune systems. By all accounts the prevalence of infections caused by some of the most potentially lethal waterborne microbes, such as legionella and pseudomonas, are underestimated."

He explained that waterborne microbes- -bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites --can enter into the healthcare environment in several ways: direct contact with or ingestion of drinking water or ice, breathing aerosols from showers and faucets and even from improperly reprocessed medical devices. As hospitals increasingly recognize the risks to patient health, they are employing a variety of treatment technologies to attempt to eradicate microbes from incoming water. Dr.
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