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Most C. Diff Infections Start in Healthcare Facilities

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, March 7, 2012

Saying that half of hospitalized patients treated for Clostridium difficile illness came through the door already infected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday called on all providers, from nursing homes to private physician practices, to take more aggressive steps to inform each other to stop the deadly bacteria.

"What this means is that hospitals... are partly at the mercy of surrounding facilities because patients so often transfer back and forth between facilities or are seen by so many providers," Ileana Arias, the CDC's principal deputy director, said during a news briefing. "An infection in one place can easily become a problem in another practice or facility too."

Healthcare providers used to think many C. difficile infections occurred randomly in the community, added Clifford McDonald, MD, CDC epidemiologist and lead author of a new CDC report on the topic from 2010.

But the CDC's report "shows that most of these so-called community infections actually occur in people with recent exposure to medical facilities such as outpatient surgery or [who have] just visited their doctor's office. In fact, "everywhere medical care is given."

A staggering 94% of these infections occured in people who recently received medical care in any of a wide range of facilities. While one-fourth of patients first showed symptoms while they were being treated in a hospital, 75% first showed symptoms while in nursing homes or after being cared for in a doctor's office or clinic, McDonald said.

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