Life Threatening Germ A Real Threat To Medical Facilities: CDC
March 7, 2012

Life Threatening Germ A Real Threat To Medical Facilities: CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning all medical facilities about the danger of infections from Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), a bacteria that causes health issues like diarrhea.

The CDC posted a report in Vital Signs today, saying that the bacteria is not just a patient safety concern for hospitals, but for all types of medical facilities. The infection and subsequent death rates from C. difficile has climbed to historic highs in the past decade.

“C. difficile harms patients just about everywhere medical care is given,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.  “Illness and death linked to this deadly disease do not have to happen. Patient lives can be saved when health care providers follow the 6 Steps to Prevention, which include key infection control and smart antibiotic prescribing recommendations.”

The 6 steps to prevention can be found in the March 7th issue of Vital Signs.

About 14,000 deaths in the United States every year are linked to a C. difficile infection. Those most at risk for contracting the infection are those who receive health care in any medical setting or those who take antibiotics. Of those infected, almost half are under the age of 65. However, the infection becomes more deadly to older patients, with more than 90 percent deaths occur in patients over 65. According to previously released billing data, the number of hospital stays related to C. difficile remains at a historically high 337,000 cases in the United States alone. It is estimated that these cases add an additional $1 billion in costs to America´s health care system. The Vital Signs report suggests these hospital estimates represent only one part of the overall impact of C. difficile.

According to the report, 94 percent of C. difficile infections are directly related to medical care. 25 percent of these infections first show symptoms in hospital patients. What´s troubling to the CDC, however, is the amount of cases found in nursing home patients or patients who were recently cared for in another clinic or facility.

Half of C. difficile infections diagnosed in hospitals were already present at the time of patient admittance. The other half of these infections were related to the care given in the hospital where the infection was diagnosed.

Hospitals and clinics are doing their part to reduce the number of C. difficile infections they see and treat.

Hospitals in England have decreased the number of C. Difficile infections more than 50 percent during a three year span. Following their lead, 71 hospitals in Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York were able to see these results in less than 2 years. These hospitals were highlighted in Vital Signs.

“C. difficile infections are usually a regional problem since patients transfer back and forth between facilities, allowing the disease to spread,” said L. Clifford McDonald, M.D., CDC medical epidemiologist and lead author of the study. “Health departments have the ability to work with many types of health care facilities, and have a unique opportunity to coordinate local, comprehensive prevention programs to reduce the occurrence of these infections.”

The CDC lists 4 steps for patients to follow in order to prevent and stop the spread of C. difficile.  Following these steps is easy and can save lives.

According to Vital Signs, the four steps are:

- Take antibiotics only as prescribed by your doctor. Antibiotics can be lifesaving medicines.

- Tell your doctor if you have been on antibiotics and get diarrhea within a few months.

- Wash your hands after using the bathroom.

- Try to use a separate bathroom if you have diarrhea, or be sure the bathroom is cleaned well if someone with diarrhea has used it.