NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — Deadly and preventable infections have been spreading like wildfire and it hasn’t been limited to schools and offices.

More and more people have been getting sick at the hospital and sometimes it’s because of medical professionals who should have known better, CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported.

In 1999, Lanie Signorile developed a benign brain tumor called a meningioma. Surgery and radiation seemed to be going well until the young bride complained of a pain in her head.

“A few weeks later my daughter came running out to me in the backyard and said ‘mommy is having a seizure,'” Steve Signorile said.

Signorile had developed a huge brain abscess, an infection that she almost certainly got in the hospital. She needed multiple operations and had a large portion of her skull removed.

Lanie died of a brain tumor last year but her infection robbed her of years of quality life.

“I don’t want this to happen to anybody else,” Steve said, “Doctors wanted her to wear a helmet. There was one time when Lanie looked in the mirror and she said, ‘I look like Frankenstein.'”

Sadly, cases like Signorile’s are not that unusual.

“Infections in a hospital are almost a national epidemic at this point,” Pres. NY Presbyterian Hospital, Dr. Bob Kelly, said.

Dr. Kelly said that many infections are preventable.

“When we touch a patient who has bacteria we can take those bacteria to another patient or a virus and we also know that if we wash our hands in between doing those things bacteria and viruses won’t come along,” Dr. Kelly explained.

Everyone at the hospital has to wash their hands before and after every patient contact. While Sirnorile’s infection did not occur at New York Presbyterian, the hospital has hired undercover observers who wandered hallways to watch how often staff members washed or disinfected their hands. Once the hospital determined what hand washing rates were the watchers became openly gentle enforcers.

“We have seen our rates of hospital onset infections for multi-drug resistant organism going down,” New York Presbyterian Infection Control’s Grimilda Mendez-Augsburg, said.

Other infection control techniques for catheters and IV lines have also made a difference.

Patients can protect themselves by asking doctors, staff, and visitors to wash their hands before making contact, asking doctors to disinfect their stethoscopes, keeping hands away from their mouths, keeping utensils away from furniture or bed sheets, and choosing a surgeon and hospital with a low infection rate.

New York Presbyterian instills infection control practices at weekly orientation sessions. Two-million infections a year are contracted in U.S. hospitals.

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