Clostridium Difficle (C. Diff) Strikes 1 in every 100 Hospital Patients
A new study reports that more than 1 in every 100 hospital patients are struck by Clostridium difficile, commonly called C. diff. Of those patients, more than 94 percent had infections. This bacteria can cause diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pain and sometimes leads to colon failure and death. This finding is at least 6.5 times higher than previous estimates.
The study was conducted by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology Inc. Altogether, 648 hospitals in 47 states documented the bacteria’s impact on a single day this summer. Extrapolating the findings to all U.S. hospitals, this means that C. diff strikes as many as 7,178 hospital patients on any given day, and predicted about 301 people in this group will eventually die of complications related to infections.
Separately, an April study by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that the in-hospital death rate for patients with C. diff was 9.5 percent, more than four times the overall 2.1 percent overall hospital death rate.
C. diff can live on hard surfaces for weeks or months. Yet rooms are cleaned with bleach often only after infection outbreaks.
Transmission typically occurs when health-care workers pick up the bacteria on their hands and carry them elsewhere. Hit most often are older patients who are taking antibiotics, which kill off bacteria that normally inhabit their guts and allow C. diff to move in and flourish.
Of particular concern: The alcohol-based hand gels now omnipresent in hospitals aren’t effective against C. diff spores. But washing with soap and water helps by rinsing the bacteria from hands.
Also, drug-resistant forms of C. diff are beginning to appear.
What’s needed are programs to improve cleanliness and hand-washing by hospital staff, as well as better control over antibiotics that can increase susceptibility to infections. Clearly, C. diff is not getting the attention it deserves. For more information about c. diff infections, see the attorneys that specialize in c. diff cases — the medical malpractice attorneys of Pennsylvania.