CDC: C. diff deaths hit 'historic high'

Agency offers six recommendations to combat infection

Clostridium difficile-related deaths have reached "historically high levels," according to a new CDC report that urges hospitals and other health care facilities to adopt more aggressive efforts to combat the infection.

For the report, researchers analyzed data from CDC's Emerging Infections Program, the National Healthcare Safety Network, and three state C. diff reduction initiatives.

According to the findings, the estimated annual number of deaths attributed to C. diff increased to 14,000 in 2006-2007, up from 3,000 deaths annually in 1999-2000. The infection in hospitals accounts for an additional $1 billion annually in U.S. health care costs, CDC said.

Overall, the report found that 94% of C. diff cases in 2010 were related to health care delivery. Specifically, the report notes that about 25% of those infections occurred in hospitalized patients, while 75% occurred in nursing home patients, outpatients, or recently discharged patients.  

Based on the findings, the researchers urged all health care facilities to improve C. diff  prevention efforts. They outlined six recommendations that clinicians can follow to prevent the spread of the infection:

    1. Prescribe antibiotics carefully;
    2. Test for C. diff in patients with diarrhea if they are taking—or have recently taken—antibiotics;

    3. Isolate infected patients immediately;

    4. Wear gloves and gowns during all interactions with infected patients;

    5. Clean all surfaces in an infected patient's room with a spore-killing product; and

    6. Inform all facilities involved in a patient's treatment if they have C. diff (Steenhuysen, Reuters, 3/6; Neale, MedPage Today, 3/6; Stein, "Shots," NPR, 3/6; Barr, Modern Healthcare, 3/6 [subscription required]).

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