C. Diff Deaths Require Action From Healthcare Industry

When the sick and injured are hospitalized, the last thing that they expect is to contract a fatal infection. Frighteningly, that’s exactly what the trend has been throughout the last two decades.

Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, is a spore-forming bacteria found naturally in human and animal feces, water, and soil. It survives and spreads in the intestines, replacing healthy bacteria and releasing toxins that cause intense diarrhea, often leading to other fatal complications.

In an article in USA Today, Hannah Morgan explains that “the germ thrives in settings where antibiotics are in wide use, and its proliferation has accelerated as a new, hyper-virulent strain has emerged over the past decade. C. diff spores spread through fecal contamination: They get on people’s hands, often from bathroom fixtures, and move to other surfaces by touch, from light switches to bed rails to tables and trays. The tough-to-kill spores resist many disinfectants and can survive for months. Once they’re on patients’ hands, it’s a short trip to their mouths — and their intestines.”

What’s worse is, the infection thrives in those taking certain antibiotics, especially those not formulated from penicillin. Since 1993, deaths from C. Diff in hospital patients has risen dramatically, prompting many facilities to make necessary changes to curb infection rates. Some examples include:

•In Cincinnati, The Jewish Hospital-Mercy Health slashed its high C. diff rate by half in less than a year by adopting stricter antibiotic controls and new room-cleaning protocols. The program costs the 209-bed hospital about $10,000 a year.

•In Pittsburgh, the 792-bed UPMC Presbyterian cut C. diff 71% from 2000 to 2006 with new cleaning protocols, better identification and isolation of infected patients, and antibiotic controls.

•In Oak Lawn, Ill., the 695-bed Advocate Christ Medical Center reduced C. diff cases 55% by retraining housekeepers, coordinating care with infection prevention specialists, and adopting new disinfection standards for high-touch areas.

Many facilities have yet to adopt stricter protocols, due to issues with cost, staffing, or the complexity of implementing new procedures. These excuses do little to comfort people such as Maxine Frumkin, who lost her mother to the lethal infection. In a letter to USA Today, she writes:

“Before she was admitted to the hospital, she could not hold her bowels and was missing the bathroom every time. Her doctor said, “Old people sometimes do not realize they have to go to the bathroom until it is too late.” But in this case, it was the beginning signs of C. diff.

After two months in the hospital, she passed. Her death certificate read “congestive heart failure,” but I had gotten an education from the doctors and nurses concerning my mom’s C. diff infection. I still have the paperwork they gave me about it. At the end, the doctors told us the C. diff was taking over her body, and it would be a matter of days. They were right.

This is a deadly bacteria, and I miss my mother every day.”

Maxine Frumkin; Cary, N.C.

The bacteria can easily be killed by adopting better housekeeping procedures in hospitals and long-term care facilities, and by better monitoring antibiotic prescriptions. The study conducted by USA Today found that “Health care facilities have stopped short of doing what’s necessary. Many hospitals and nursing homes lack programs to track and limit the use of antibiotics that allow C. diff to thrive. And studies show that patients’ rooms often aren’t cleaned sufficiently.”

The healthcare industry as a whole is being pressured to take action to prevent the increase in fatalities, which is estimated to be around 30,000 a year, with over 500,000 total cases on average being reported. No one enters the hospital expecting to be made sick by their visit, and if the industry invests the time, effort, and resources necessary to curb the spread of C. Diff, hopefully these fatality rates will begin to decline.

Read More at USA Today.

© Copyright Amy Ullsperger, All rights Reserved. Written For: DSR Sales Support Blog

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