According to a new report, many hospitals are not undertaking simple sanitary measures that could prevent the spread of a diarrhea-causing bacteria known as Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, which has spread rapidly through the U.S. health care system in recent years.
The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) recently released the results of its 2013 Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) Pace of Progress Survey (PDF), which questioned 1,087 infection preventionists about their policies and practices in January.
While most facilities are improving their practices, many have not seen a drop in hospital C. diff infection rates and some have not yet taken basic infection prevention precautions, the survey found.
The report indicates that only 21% of those who responded to the survey had been able to increase infection prevention staff over the last three years, despite the rapid spread of C. diff. Only 60% of those who responded to the survey have antimicrobial stewardship programs, and only about half have launched patient education programs.
The survey also found that 30% of the respondents had not adopted additional interventions to protect against the spread of C. diff, and many of those who have adopted new procedures have not seen any improvements.
Out of the 70% who took new measures to prevent C. diff infections, 43% report seeing no decline in the rates of infections.
Clostridium difficile Infection (C.diff) is a spore-forming anaerobic bacillus, a germ that is a common cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD).
When a person takes antibiotics, the germs that protect against infection are destroyed. During this time a patient can get sick from C. Diff by touching contaminated surfaces or from a contaminated healthcare provider’s hands.
The C. diff spores can remain active outside of the body and can be found on bed linens, bed rails, bathroom fixtures and medical equipment. C. Diff is typically treated with an antibiotic, but in very rare cases the infected person will require surgery to remove the infected portion of the intestines.
About half of all patients diagnosed with C. diff had it when they entered a health care facility, the CDC estimates, and as they move from one health care facility to another, like from a hospital to a nursing home, they end up spreading the infection to new venues.
C. diff infections are at historically high levels, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), killing 14,000 Americans each year. The CDC blames much of the spread of C. diff on the overuse of antibiotics.
In recent years, there has been an increasing number of hospital infection lawsuits filed throughout the United States, as experts widely believe that most of these potentially life-threatening infections can be prevented if steps are taken by the hospital and staff.