C. diff infections hit record high

With C. difficile infection rates and deaths climbing to historic highs, all types of healthcare facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes and outpatient settings, should be working to combat the life-threatening bacteria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said yesterday in a report.

With 14,000 C. difficile-associated deaths in the U.S. every year, mortalities have jumped 400% between 2000 and 2007, due in part to a stronger germ strain, the report stated. Most (94 percent) infections result from medical care. The CDC stressed that the bacteria can affect all kinds of sites--not just hospitals.

"C. difficile harms patients just about everywhere medical care is given," CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden said in a CDC statement.

Previous estimates have shown that the number of U.S. hospital stays related to C. difficile remains historically high at approximately 337,000 annually, adding at least $1 billion in extra costs to the healthcare system, according to CDC. About 25 percent of C. difficile infections first present symptoms in hospital patients, and the other 75 percent first show in nursing home patients or in people recently cared for in physician offices and clinics.  

The report found that infections tend to concentrate in certain regions, as healthcare facilities frequently transfer patients and germs. Calling it often a "regional problem," study lead author and CDC medical epidemiologist L. Clifford McDonald said in the CDC statement that health departments "have a unique opportunity to coordinate local, comprehensive prevention programs to reduce the occurrence of these infections." 

The CDC did have some good news about the effects of prevention. Hospitals that have infection prevention projects and control measures in place have lowered C. difficile infections 20% in less than 2 years. The CDC suggested healthcare providers wear gloves, conduct other hand hygiene practices, clean room surfaces and notify receiving facilities if a transferred patient has a C. difficile infection.

In addition to recognizing doctors and nurses for patient safety practices, environmental services play a vital role in keeping hospitals clean. For example, the environmental services team at the Regional Medical Center in Orangeburg, S.C., received this year's Hygiene Specialist Excellence award, UPI reported.

The people on environmental services "make the difference on many different levels--infection prevention, patient satisfaction and ultimately a hospital's bottom line," George Clarke, CEO of award sponsor UMF, said in the article.

For more information:
- check out the CDC report
- here's the CDC announcement
- read the UPI article

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