Infection Prevention and Control Specialists on Lowering Hospital Infection Rates

A growing problem in health care facilities is the rate at which healthcare-associated infections, also known as HAI, are reported. One of the widest known infections that commonly start within a health care facility is called Clostridium difficile, also known as C. difficile. This article explains how C. difficile is contracted and what hospitals and the health care industry are doing to reduce the rate at which this infection is caused.

What is C. difficile?

C. difficile (or Clostridium difficile) is a healthcare-associated infection (HAI) that is the result of one of many causes. The C. difficile bacteria are found all over the environment, including air, water, soil, feces, and food products. While some people can carry the bacteria without becoming sick or developing any symptoms, this infection can cause many symptoms in most patients.

How is C. difficile contracted?

C. difficile is contracted through feces and can eventually be spread to food, surfaces, and other objects when infected people don’t wash their hands thoroughly. In a hospital, there are hundreds and sometimes thousands of people who visit a hospital daily. Even a few cases of health care professionals not washing their hands thoroughly or disinfecting the surfaces of a hospital room could cause the infection to spread to additional patients.

C. difficile must be caught early on. Otherwise, a patient can contract more symptoms, which can eventually lead to death.

The cause for concern

The most significant reason for concern comes from the number of cases of this infection are reported every year. Just in the United States, a 2011 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report an estimated 453,000 cases of C. difficile per year. The critical concern that results from that number of cases is the 29,300 deaths each year.

While this number of deaths per year has doubled from 2009 to 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched an action plan with the hopes of eventually reducing the contraction of C. difficile infections as well as five other high-priority infections.

Another cause for concern involves the emergence of a new aggressive strain of the C. difficile infection. This highly resistant strain is resistant to some medications, and the cause and spread of these new strains of infections could cause an increase in the number of deaths. Infections like C. difficile need to be effectively handled in the prevention stage to best handle the outbreak and cases of death.

What is the health care industry doing to help?

The health care industry is serious about improving the health care system of the United States of America, and that includes reducing and one day eliminating the number of C. difficile deaths and HAI contractions.

Here are a few ways the health care industry is helping to decrease the number of C. difficile deaths and overall cases:

  • More reporting: In 2009, there were only 34 states that were required to report the number of C. difficile cases. The health care industry is working to require more states, and one day all states, to report C. difficile and other infections. Reporting every case of C. difficile will cause improved health care and show red flags in hospitals and states that need additional help with C difficile infection control.
  • Certificate program: There are certificate programs that offer Infection Prevention and Control certificates that an increasing number of hospitals are requiring nurses and doctors to take in order to practice nursing or medicine at their hospital. This certificate program allows more knowledge to be spread so that the number of cases can be lowered year by year.
  • Trained IPs: Many hospitals have trained IPs that control and prevent the contraction, cause, and spread of C. difficile and other infections and infectious diseases. This will increase the performance of hospitals and, eventually, the quality of the health care system overall.
  • Infection prevention: Infection prevention is the number one way that the health care system is reducing the amount of C. difficile cases. Treating HAIs and infections within a hospital is only effective if the infection is caught at an early stage. Because infections like C. difficile can eventually lead to death, controlling and treating an infected person must be done quickly and efficiently. The better way to decrease the number of deaths and cases is to establish infection prevention programs at hospitals.

Decreasing the number of C. difficile cases

C. difficile and other healthcare-associated infections are a considerable problem within hospitals and health care facilities. The best way to reduce the number of deaths is to decrease the number of cases yearly. The way to decrease C. difficile cases is to have an infection prevention system in place.
Hospitals that require IPs have fewer cases of infections and deaths from infections, and the trend for infection programs and prevention is only going to increase.