Clostridium difficile or C. diff is a deadly, treatment-resistant infection. For the first time in decades, data shared by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that the rate of C. diff has dropped, with a 9 to 15% decrease reported in incidences of C. diff in healthcare settings, including hospitals and nursing homes.
In 2011, the CDC estimated that 29,000 people died as a result of C. diff infections and close to 500,000 illnesses were caused from the infection. Individuals with C. diff infections can survive, but not without a painful experience that causes severe diarrhea and gripping stomach pain. C. diff infections are particularly common in nursing homes. Dr. John Haran, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School told NPR that 20 to 50% of nursing home residents can be affected by the infection at any one time. The infection is initially caused when an individual takes an antibiotic, which destroys good germs that protect against infection for several months. The infection can be transmitted through contact with feces (including through the hands of healthcare workers who don’t practice good hand sanitation). Now, however, thanks to new antibiotic stewardship methods, the rate of C. diff is seeing a drop.
The CDC offers the following tips to prevent C diff infections in healthcare settings:
- Make sure that all doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub before and after caring for residents
- Residents should only take antibiotics when prescribed by a doctor
- Residents should be encouraged to clean their own hands often, especially after using the bathroom and before eating