This health video will show you the four steps you need to know to protect yourself.
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Jennifer Mathews: When Belinda Malone was 5 months pregnant, she checked into a hospital for temporary monitoring, instead, she grew mysteriously ill. Belinda Malone: I woke up with a high temperature. I believe it was 104 and had a hard time breathing I was just in pain. Kevin Malone: The doctor came out and said, “You know, I have to be honest to you, pretty much you have to expect your wife to die tonight." Jennifer Mathews: Belinda survived, but her baby died that night. The cause? An E. Coli infection Belinda acquired during her hospital stay. Belinda Malone: It's very hard. It's still very hard. Jennifer Mathews: Their son became one of the nearly 100,000 people who die from hospital infections each year. Dr. Barry Farr has devoted his life to protecting patients. Now, he says, “Patients should do what they can to protect themselves.” Dr. Barry Farr: The first thing somebody should think about when they're going into a hospital is that the person coming to see you may well not have washed his hands after the last patient. Jennifer Mathews: He says make sure healthcare workers wash their hands before they touch you. Another step -- Dr. Barry Farr: Every patient before a major surgical procedure should take antiseptic showers before going to the operating room. Jennifer Mathews: The antiseptic of choice: chlorhexidine. Studies show it reduces the risk of some infections by 50 percent. To further lower your risk of a staph infection, ask your doctor for a nose culture to see if you already carry staph on your body. About one-third of the population carries a form of staph that can turn deadly in an operating room. Finally, Stanford Doctor Lucy Tompkins says, “The healthier you are, the better your chances of survival.” Dr. Lucy Tompkins: Have a good diet. Have a good exercise history. Take good care of themselves. Have regular measurements of their blood pressure. All those things that are preventative. Jennifer Mathews: And if you smoke, that includes quitting 30 days before any operation to prevent lung infections. Her infection is gone, but Belinda is left with just 20% of her kidney function, and doctors have advised against any more children. Her advice to others? Belinda Malone: Just ask questions and if you're not getting the answer, ask for the doctor and be very adamant about your healthcare and be proactive about your healthcare. Jennifer Mathews: That proactive thinking could mean the difference between life and death. This is Jennifer Mathews reporting.