CDC: Clostridium Difficile Infection Rates and Deaths at “Historic Highs”

March 6, 2012

A press release issued today (March 6, 2012) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals infections from the bacteria Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) presents a patient safety concern in all types of medical facilities, not just in hospitals as was traditionally thought.

According to the press release, C. difficile infection rates and deaths have “climbed to historic highs.”

“C. difficile harms patients just about everywhere medical care is given,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “Illness and death linked to this deadly disease do not have to happen. Patient lives can be saved when health care providers follow the 6 Steps to Prevention, which include key infection control and smart antibiotic prescribing recommendations.”

C. difficile is linked to about 14,000 U.S. deaths every year. Those most at risk are people who take antibiotics and also receive care in any medical setting. Almost half of infections occur in people younger than 65, but more than 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 and older. Previously released estimates based on billing data show that the number of U.S. hospital stays related to C. difficile remains at historically high levels of about 337,000 annually, adding at least $1 billion in extra costs to the health care system. However, the Vital Signs report shows that these hospital estimates may only represent one part of C. difficile’s overall impact.

The press release directs readers to an article in the CDC Vital Signs March 2012 issue, “Making Health Care Safer, Stopping C. difficile Infections.”   In the article, the CDC describes the problem of C. difficile infections, details who’s at risk and what can be done to prevent infections.  The issue also provides extensive resources.

For more information, click here to read the CDC Press Release. CDC Vital Signs is a report published online and in the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The current issue contains the article “Making Health Care Safer, Stopping C. difficile Infections.”

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. (APIC) also issued a press release about the Vital Signs article.  That press release can be found here.

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