Known as Clostridium difficile, C. difficile is a bacteria that spreads rapidly through nursing homes that do not practice standard sanitary practices. It commonly develops among patients who are taking antibiotics or anti-microbial medication. Once a case of C. difficile is diagnosed in a nursing home, it can spread through contaminated equipment, environments or hands.
Although cases of C. difficile infections are rising, they are largely preventable. Antibiotics should be restricted only to patients who need them. If antibiotics are prescribed, the nursing home should supervise their administration to make sure that they are used properly. Likewise, the nursing home should remove residents who have CDI or other diarrheal diseases to a private room. This can help to limit the number of people who are potentially exposed. When a private room is not possible, additional bathroom cleaning or a private bathroom can be used instead.
When someone develops CDI, it can cause increased dehydration due to diarrhea. Left unstopped, this disease can cause malnutrition and increased frailty. Since it weakens the immune system, C. difficile can make the individual’s body less capable of responding to future infections. After infection, CDI patients have an 83 percent mortality rate over the ensuing twelve months. In comparison, similar, unaffected patients have a much lower mortality of 50 percent.
Clostridium difficile infections nearly doubled from 2001 to 2005. Although it can strike at any age, it is most life threatening for the elderly, children or pregnant women. Cases of CDI rose from 148,900 in 2001 to 301,200 in 2005 after hospital stays. Long-term care facilities and nursing homes typically house some of the sickest residents, so the incidence of CDI is much higher than average. To make the situation worse, some individuals are asymptomatic carriers. This means that some nursing home residents may be spreading the infection without ever personally falling ill.
During a stay in a nursing home, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of individuals will end up developing a Clostridium difficile infection. Among these individuals, 4 to 20 percent will develop serious colonization from the disease. In 2006, 11,200 nursing home cases of CDI developed among residents.
Lack of sanitary procedures, cleanliness and hand washing increase the transmission rates of C. difficile. For this disease to be prevented, the nursing home staff must regularly wash their hands and clean equipment. Family members should look for hand washing stations and hand sanitizers throughout the nursing home. If the care facility lacks these precautions, they are at risk for developing an outbreak.
In addition to sanitary regulations, antibiotic use has been linked to an increase in Clostridium difficile infections. In 2002, an estimated 40 percent of residents in nursing homes were on one or more antibiotics. After taking antibiotics, rates of CDI rise. To prevent this, nursing homes should only prescribe antibiotics when they are absolutely necessary and supervise the residents who are on antibiotics.
Although some cases of Clostridium difficile infections are unpreventable, nursing homes should adopt measures that prevent this infection from spreading. When the nursing home lacks sanitary regulations and does not treat these cases, it can cause an outbreak and fatalities. If you or a loved one has suffered from C. difficile, you should seek medical treatment first. Afterward, there are attorneys who can help you seek justice and financial compensation. Nursing homes have no excuse for allowing an outbreak to occur. If this happens, you can get some of the help you need by consulting with a qualified attorney.