Clostridium difficile (C. difficile or C. diff) is a serious infectious disease that causes inflammation of the colon that leads to deadly diarrhea. There are nearly 500,000 C. diff infections in the United States every year (more than 100,000 of these infections developed among residents of U.S. nursing homes; more than 80% of C. diff deaths in the United States are among those 65 and older).
More than 150,000 of the nearly 500,000 C. diff infections were community-associated with no documented inpatient health care exposure, according to a CDC study released on February 25, 2015. The CDC study reported that approximately 29,000 patients died within 30 days of the initial diagnosis of C. diff and estimated that approximately 15,000 of those deaths were directly attributable to C. diff infections.
C. difficile is the most common microbial cause of healthcare-associated infections in U.S. hospitals, and costs up to $4.8 billion each year in excess health care costs for acute care facilities. Another recent study found that a 30% decrease in the use of antibiotics linked to C. difficile infections in hospitals could reduce the infections by more than 25% in hospitalized and recently discharged patients.
Another new study found that 1 out of every 5 patients with a healthcare-associated C. difficile infection experienced a recurrence of the infection, and that 1 out of every 9 patients aged 65 or older with a healthcare-associated C. difficile infection died within 30 days of diagnosis.
A separate recent CDC study found that 82% of patients with community-associated C. difficile infections reported exposure to outpatient health care settings such as doctor’s or dentist’s offices in the 12 weeks before their diagnosis, which the study associates with the overuse of antibiotics (it is estimated that more than 50% of antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily in outpatient settings for upper respiratory infections caused by viruses, such as coughs and colds). The CDC study stated that its findings underscore the need for improved antibiotic use and infection control in these settings as well (another recent CDC study reported that among patients without a recent hospitalization or nursing home stay, a 10% reduction in the use of all antibiotics in outpatient settings could reduce C. difficile infections by 16%).
C. difficile infections may be acquired due to the failure to establish and/or follow proper infection control protocols and procedures in hospitals, in nursing homes, in doctors’ offices, and in other health care facilities that lead to patients needlessly becoming infected with C. difficile and suffering its consequences.
It may be difficult to identify the source of C. difficile infections that harm patients or to establish that a C. difficile infection was acquired by a patient due to medical negligence or other negligent conduct. Therefore, it is important that if you or a loved one became infected with C. difficile and suffered serious injury as a result, you should promptly consult with a local medical malpractice lawyer in your U.S. state who may investigate your C. diff claim for you and represent you in a claim involving C. difficile, if appropriate.
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