June 1, 2011

A recent interview with an infection prevention specialist should put the Portland health care community on alert. According to the 30-year health care professional, the incidence of Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) has increased by 10 percent every year. The mortality rate is up, as well. And, what was once a hospital infection is now found in health care facilities of all kinds.

According to this expert, nearly half a million Americans acquire the infection every year. At the end of their first year of dealing with C. diff illness, more than 83,000 patients will die.

Health care facilities face two primary challenges with CDI. Preventing transmission, of course, is paramount. Stopping the spread of CDI once an outbreak has occurred comes in a close second.

The infection spreads from person to person easily and quickly. Anyone can pick up CDI by coming into contact with a health care worker with contaminated hands or with a patient with CDI. The bacteria are especially hardy and can live for several months on a surface — for example, hospital equipment — so transmission can also occur by coming into contact with shared equipment or a contaminated environment.

A good prevention program will not stop with hand washing. Rather, a good prevention program starts with education and training of all staff and includes development and strict adherence to policies and procedures that detail each department’s — even each individual’s — role in implementation.

The processes should go beyond “clean the equipment” to the step-by-step order in which surfaces and equipment should be cleaned and disinfected. And every process should include a monitoring component — harking back to the days of quality improvement, best practices are built by continuous evaluation and revision.

We’ll continue the discussion in our next post.

Source: Infection Control Today, “Best practices for addressing CDI,” 06/09/2011


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