LTC facilities remain at high risk of C. difficile

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Clostridium difficile is responsible for 14,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, and 75% of them involve nursing home residents, according to an expert presenting Thursday at a McKnight's webinar. However, the expert added, there are several prevention strategies to help avoid one of the most difficult healthcare associated infections.

C. difficile is a unique infection that has the ability to form bacterial spores that cause serious intestinal problems, explained Beverly Spencer, business team leader for healthcare training for Clorox Healthcare. These spores resist stomach acidity, and can inhabit the human gastrointestinal tract. Nearly everybody in a long-term care facility is at risk because of frequent communal contact, common air circulation, shared resident care equipment, frequent resident transfer from acute care, and inadequate staffing levels, Spencer added.

While C. diff spores are highly resistant to cleaning and disinfection measures, Spencer says using the right products can prevent the spread. In fact, the top two infection prevention procedures are hand hygiene and thorough surface cleaning. Because 80% of infections are transmitted via direct or indirect touch, it is crucial to wash hands with soap and water, disinfect any surface the resident or caretaker may encounter and keep a C. diff patient isolated from others who are susceptible. Products that effectively fight C. difficile will commonly say so on the container, Spencer noted.

Other tips she provided included being cautious when giving residents antibiotics, testing them immediately if they show any symptoms, always wearing protective gowns and gloves, and being alert about the infected.

Symptoms of C. diff most commonly include watery diarrhea multiple times a day, severe abdominal pain or tenderness, loss of appetite, fevers and nausea.

Every facility needs to implement an infection prevention plan, Spencer said. In order for it to be effective, team members need to work together, educate themselves, ensure proper disinfection and always be on the watch for signs of C. diff.

“Everyone can prevent the spread of C. difficile, and I would love to see that happen,” Spencer said.

An archived version of the webinar can be viewed again, or for the first time, by following the free registration link at the bottom of this item.