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Infectious bacteria showing up at most healthcare facilities

When we go to a doctor's appointment, we expect that the doctor will wash their hands and that the facility is sanitized, but that's not always the case. Hospitals are notorious for carrying bacteria that can be harmful to patients, but a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that 94 percent of Clostridium difficile infections were associated with receiving healthcare in a doctor's office, clinic, or nursing home.

A Clostridium difficile infection is a potentially fatal bacterial illness that causes diarrhea and has mainly been found in hospitals, but recently it is expanding to other healthcare facilities. The study shows that this type of infection has reached a historic high and that the condition is spreading in inpatient and outpatient facilities and some believe that it is a form of nursing home neglect in nursing home patients.

Researchers who conducted the study say that this infection is a patient safety concern everywhere medical care is given. An alarming finding was revealed in the study and it showed that 75 percent of those that showed symptoms of C. diff were nursing home patients or people who recently received care in a doctor's office or clinic. While the percentage is lower for hospitals, many patients are transferred into the hospital with the C. diff infection and so prevention efforts need to continue to be a priority in hospitals.

Why is this infection becoming more prevalent? Researchers feel that the main culprit is doctors that prescribe antibiotics that are not needed. The antibiotics destroy the good bacteria that protect people from infection. What this means is that people taking antibiotics may be more susceptible to this type of infection.

Another reason that this infection is becoming such a problem is that it can spread quickly from person to person and the C. diff spores are not easily killed. The scary part about this infection is that hand sanitizer or vigorous hand washing with soap does not completely clean the hands of the bacteria. The CDC recommends that physicians and health care workers wear gloves and a gown when caring for a patient that might have the infection.

C. diff is linked to approximately 14,000 deaths in the U.S. each year and more than 90 percent of those deaths occur in people 65 and older whose immune systems may already be compromised.

Source: amednews.com, "C. diff causes concern in primary care, other outpatient settings," Christine S. Moyer, March 19, 2012

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