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CDC says C. difficile infections at “historic high”

It’s become a sad fact that many people being treated in health-care facilities end up catching a bad -- and potentially deadly -- bug in the very place where they’re supposed to get better.

A report on the increased incidence of clostridium difficile infections in hospitals and other health-care settings issued Tuesday by the CDC finds that “the incidence, deaths, and excess health-care costs resulting from CDIs in hospitalized patients are all at historic highs.” The estimated number of deaths attributed to infection with C. difficile rose from 3,000 deaths per year during 1999-2000 to 14,000 deaths per year during 2006-2007. The report attributes much of that increase to the emergence of a highly virulent, drug-resistant strain of C. difficile bacteria.

C. difficile bacteria, which can cause debilitating diarrhea and potentially lethal inflammation of the bowel, are spread through feces. Use of antibiotics fosters C. difficile infection by reducing the amount of “good” bacteria in the gut that can battle these bad bacteria.

While 44 percent of those infected were younger than 65, more than 90 percent of those who died from C. difficile infection were 65 or older. Only 25 percent of infections originated in hospitals.

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