Have you hear of the C.Diff bactera? It has killed 30,000 Americans!
"Looking at the data for C. diff and looking at what's being presented at infection control meetings, we're not doing a very good job," says William Jarvis, who spent 17 years heading the health care infection division at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "We know what to do (to lower rates). It's not rocket science. And we know the barrier is cost."
To assess the C. diff epidemic, USA TODAY conducted dozens of interviews and reviewed an array of state and federal data, government studies and academic papers. The reporting revealed:
•Deaths and illnesses are much higher than reports have shown. In March, the CDC said in a report that the infection kills 14,000 people a year. But that estimate is based on death certificates, which often don't list the infection when patients die from complications, such as kidney failure.
Hospital billing data collected by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows that more than 9% of C. diff-related hospitalizations end in death — nearly five times the rate for other hospital stays. That adds up to more than 30,000 fatalities among the 347,000 C. diff hospitalizations in 2010. Thousands more patients are treated in nursing homes, clinics and doctors' offices.
"We're talking in the range of close to 500,000 total cases a year," says Cliff McDonald, a C. diff expert and senior science adviser in the CDC's Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. And annual fatalities "may well be … as high as 30,000."
•Health care facilities have stopped short of doing what's necessary. Many hospitals and nursing homes lack programs to track and limit the use of antibiotics that allow C. diff to thrive. And studies show that patients' rooms often aren't cleaned sufficiently.
During the recession, many health care facilities cut spending on infection control and housekeeping, and they often lack a tightly coordinated approach to track and kill the bacteria.
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