The UK government has announced fresh plans to combat the rising threat of hospital superbugs, with a renewed focus on personal hygiene such as handwashing and new rules governing how medical institutions publish infection rate statistics.
The news comes amid a rising cases of E.coli cases in England, with the bacterial condition reportedly killing over 5,000 people in 2015. According to the NHS, E.coli causes stomach pains, diarrhoea and can result in kidney failure. It currently makes up nearly two-thirds of antibiotic-resistant infections, the BBC reported.
Now, UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said he wants hospital staff, patients and visitors to be told to wash their hands more regularly in an attempt to curb the spread of such superbugs. He also said the use of some medical devices, such as catheters, need to be better regulated.
The health secretary added it will hopefully reduce the "enormous human pain and suffering" caused by superbugs" such as E.coli, MRSA and C.diff.
"Taken together, these measures are intended to achieve a dramatic reduction in hospital infections, reducing enormous human pain and suffering in the process," he added. "They will make us better at knowing when to use antibiotics and better at knowing when not to use them."
According to the BBC, there were 40,000 cases of E.coli in England last year which is an increase of approximately 20% in the last five years. Additionally, the cost of treating the superbug infections is currently estimated to be £3,000-£6,000 per patient.
Under the new plans, which has been dubbed a "war on superbugs", the UK government will appoint a so-called national infection tsar to enforce the increased focus on hygiene. It will also reportedly make hospitals publish E.coli rates in wards in a way that is visible to both patients and visitors.
There are a number of ways to reduce the spread of superbugs like E.coli. According to Public Health England, as noted by the BBC, these include washing hands thoroughly after using the toilet, washing all vegetables and fruits that will be eaten raw and ensuring meat products are cooked properly. It also advises that people who are ill should not prepare food for others for at least 48 hours after they have recovered.