The incidence, mortality, and medical care costs of Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), a common and sometimes fatal health care-associated infection, are all at historic highs, according to a report released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report shows that C. difficile is not just a problem in hospitals—it is a patient safety issue in all types of medical facilities, including nursing homes, physician offices, and outpatient facilities.
C. difficile causes diarrhea linked to 14,000 American deaths each year. Almost half of the infections occur in people younger than 65, but more than 90% of deaths occur in people 65 and older. About 25% of C. difficile infections first show symptoms in hospital patients; 75% first show in nursing home patients or in people recently cared for in physician offices and clinics.
To help reduce the spread of C. difficile, CDC provides guidelines and tools to the health care community, including a podcast on 6 steps to prevention for clinicians, in addition to information for patients. CDC notes that hospitals that follow infection control recommendations have lowered C. difficile infection rates by 20% in less than 2 years.