The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Vital Signs report today that showed infections from Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) are a growing threat in all types of healthcare settings. This new report from the CDC is timely as despite successes against many healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), C. difficile continues to be a challenge at many healthcare facilities. It is one of the infections targeted in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Action Plan to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections.
In 2008, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) released a prevalence study showing that this intestinal infection is sickening significantly more hospital patients than once thought.
The CDC Vital Signs report shows that C. difficile is no longer just a hospital problem. According to the report, 75 percent of cases first appear in nursing homes or other places where care is delivered outside of hospitals. Prevention efforts must be coordinated across all care settings.
C. difficile is frequently associated with previous antibiotic use and is most commonly contracted by the elderly and those with recent exposure to hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare settings. Because any antimicrobial can potentially induce C. difficile infection, stewardship programs that promote judicious use of antimicrobials should be encouraged. APIC and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) have just published a position paper on the important role that Infection preventionists and healthcare epidemiologists play in successful antimicrobial stewardship efforts.
Since 1972, APIC has provided thought leadership on infection prevention to drive attention to the critical need to protect patients from HAIs and is an authority in the application of evidence-based, infection prevention measures. APIC offers resources to help all types of healthcare facilities implement infection prevention programs, including a Guide to the Elimination of Clostridium difficile in Healthcare Settings.
Clean Spaces, Healthy Patients, a joint program between APIC and the Association for the Healthcare Environment offers free tools and resources to spread best practices for cleaning and disinfecting to help prevent transmission of infections from the healthcare environment.
APIC believes that every healthcare institution should be working toward HAI elimination. The CDC report highlights three programs showing success in reducing C. difficile rates. Continued progress is contingent upon sustained focus and resources. APIC believes that continued use and monitoring of these strategies will support ongoing reductions in C. difficile, both inside and outside the hospital.