More people know about hospital acquired infections and medical errors than you might think, and not just from watching Oprah. (Oprah featured actor Dennis Quaid a few weeks ago, whose twins suffered multiple medication errors.

A new Consumer Reports poll finds that 18 percent of Americans say they or an immediate family member have gotten a dangerous infection after a medical procedure and over a third report that medical errors are common in everyday medical procedures. The full poll is available here.

Here are more highlights from the poll:

  • The risk of an infection increased 45 percent if a patient spent the night in the hospital.
  • Fifty-three percent of Americans polled said these infections required additional out of pocket expenses to treat the infection.
  • Sixty-nine percent had to be admitted to a hospital or extend their stay because of the infection.

If you don’t know someone who’s suffered a hospital infection or medical error, meet Kerry O’Connell, a construction company executive from Colorado. Kerry fell off a ladder while painting his house and needed arm surgery. In the hospital, he acquired MRSA, a deadly antibiotic-resistant infection that cost him months of time, eight surgeries, and $20,000 out of pocket to repair.

You may know someone who has suffered a hospital acquired infection, but you probably don’t know how common they are. While we have made infection-reporting progress in twenty-five states, many states do not require hospitals to report infection rates or medical errors to the public. In spite of hospitals’ efforts to keep their mistakes a secret, a third of you do feel that medical errors are common. Maybe more people would feel that way, and take precautions, if the real stats were widely available.

Nearly 200,000 Americans die each year from preventable medical errors and hospital-acquired infections, according to a 1999 Institute of Medicine report and the CDC. Medical errors injure too many people, acknowledges A Healthy Blog, “But it doesn’t have to be this way.”