C. difficile Infections Hit All-Time High

C. difficile Infections have hit an all-time high in the United States.

Clostridium difficile infections have reached an all-time high in the United States, and 94% of these infections initiate with medical care, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. C. difficile–related deaths increased from 3,000 in 1999-2000 to 14,000 in 2006-2007, according to the CDC.

The data were published as a CDC Vital Signs report and were presented in a telebriefing on March 6.

C. difficile is “a formidable opponent,” and a patient safety issue everywhere that medical care is provided, said Dr. Clifford McDonald, a CDC epidemiologist and the lead author of the report. CDC’s data show that 25% of C. difficile infections first appear in hospitalized patients, while 75% occur either in nursing home residents or in people recently treated in doctors’ offices or clinics. People most at risk are those who take antibiotics and receive care in an outpatient setting.

There are six steps that clinicians can do to reduce C. difficile infections.

• Prescribe antibiotics judiciously.

• Be proactive about testing patients for C. difficile if they develop diarrhea while taking antibiotics.

• Isolate patients with C. difficile.

• Wear gloves and gowns when treating C. difficile patients, even for short visits.

• Clean surfaces in exam and treatment rooms with bleach or other spore-killing products.

• When a patient transfers to another facility, notify the medical team about a C. difficile infection.

For additional information about tracking HAIs infections, contact the Emerging Infections Program or the NHSN.


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