November marks International C. Diff Awareness month.
C. Diff (or Clostridium Difficile), for the unaware, is a particularly aggressive bacterium that can infect the bowel and cause diarrhoea.
It’s also everywhere, more or less all the time. Clostridium Difficile is found in the air, water, soil and often in our intestines and therefore in human waste.
For this simple fact it spreads rapidly in a clinical setting as there is a far greater opportunity for patients and staff to come into contact with it.
In 2012 there were 37,900 cases of C. Diff in Canada alone – 64% of which were contracted in hospital. The cost to society was $281 million, $65.1 million of which just went on managing instances of relapse. This doesn’t include the cost to the economy which would have been far greater.
Clostridium Difficile can spread from fabrics (clothing and bedding) and other surfaces – especially if they are soiled – to the skin and individuals can become infected if those microbes then come into contact with the nose or mouth.
Those most commonly affected are treated with antibiotics but once the person is infected it can spread easily to others.
Those particularly at risk are those who have recently been treated with broad spectrum antibiotics, have recently been in hospital, are over the age of 65, have underlying health conditions or a weakened immune system due to other treatments or illness.
People who have had surgery on their digestive system or taking proton pump inhibitors are also at risk.
Clostridium Difficile – whilst treatable with another course of antibiotics – has the potential to cause serious bowel problems including life-threatening pseudomembranous colitis, bowel perforation and sepsis.
According to the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, one in ten people over the age of 65 infected with C. Diff will die within the first 30 days.
Due to the highly contagious nature of Clostridium Difficile and the risk to older people, limiting the risk to clinicians and patients is both a challenge and a high priority.
Throughout the whole of November the Canadian health sector is observing C. Diff Awareness Month. Clinicians and organisations like the C. Diff Foundation will be educating clinicians and the general public on the highly contagious nature of the infection.
A big part of the education campaign will be understanding ways in which individuals can protect themselves and others from contracting C. Diff.
In order to do our part we wanted to share our top three:
Spore forming organisms like C. Difficile are capable of persisting on hard surfaces – floors, walls, tables, bedpans – for up to 5 months.
In a study published by Oxford Academic C. Diff was found in 49% of rooms on both wards and intensive care units, occupied by infected patients and 29% of sites in rooms occupied by asymptomatic carriers.
Heaviest contamination is found on floors and bedrails with other sites such as windowsills, call buttons, sheets and catheters all showing strong signs as well.
The big challenge is that common hospital cleaning agents are not sporicidal and can even promote sporulation.
This means other methods such as ultraviolet radiation are required to properly decontaminate infected areas. Where possible, individuals with C. Diff should also be isolated in private rooms.
Stepping up hand hygiene protocols is essential to prevent the spread of C. Diff not just to oneself but to others as well.
Hand sanitisers have been proven to reduce the spread of infection as they are highly effective at eliminating non-spore forming bacteria.
However, not all – especially alcohol based – sanitisers are effective against Clostridium Difficile spores making handwashing the most effective way of cleaning those spores from hands.
Hands should be washed after removing gloves.
It is also worthwhile wearing gowns when caring for patients with C. Diff in order to limit spores from getting on to clothes.
Because Clostridium Difficile spores can survive in the most adverse conditions, making sure that your dirty utility solution is geared towards containing and eliminating them is paramount.
The spores can survive on the surface of bedpans so ensuring they are handled correctly and your bedpan washer is adequate to the task of disinfecting them is vitally important.
As C. Diff is found in faecal matter, any human waste left on a reusable bedpan poses a significant health risk to the clinician and to patients.
It is also worth keeping bedpans used for C. Diff patients in a separate place to the rest of your supply to avoid any risk of cross contamination.
Bedpan pulp macerators are a highly effective alternative as the bedpan and its contents can be disposed of entirely eliminating the risk of infection, outside of the clinician’s observation of hand hygiene guidance.
To learn more about how we can support you in your fight against Clostridium Difficile and other infectious diseases, contact us today.