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Common Hospital Infection Lengthens Patient Stays

MONDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Hospitalized patients who are infected with Clostridium difficile -- the most common cause of infectious diarrhea in hospitals -- will lengthen their stay by about six days on average, a new study indicates.

Experts say prevention is key to controlling the spread of the bacterial infection known as C. difficile.

For the study, published Dec. 5 in the journal CMAJ, researchers analyzed information on nearly 137,000 hospital admissions in Ottawa over the course of seven years. Of those admissions, 1,393 patients became infected with C. difficile and spent 34 days in the hospital, compared with just eight day for those who did not have the infection.

However, patients with C. difficile generally had more serious illnesses, which the researchers took into account. They then calculated that becoming infected with the bacteria actually lengthened hospital stays by an average of six days.

The bacterial illness commonly occurs in older people and those with weakened immune systems. It can pass to patients from health care personnel who have touched contaminated surfaces without washing their hands, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Beside diarrhea, symptoms include fever, nausea and loss of appetite.

About 10 percent of patients who become infected in the hospital with C. difficile will die, according to background information in a journal news release.

"We believe our study provides the most accurate measure yet of the impact of hospital-acquired C. difficile on length of hospital stay," study author Alan Forster, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and an associate professor at the University of Ottawa, said in the release. He noted that new tools to collect hospital data and provide more accurate information are boosting infection-prevention efforts.

Study co-author Dr. David Enoch, with Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals in the United Kingdom, said in the release that prevention and oversight are essential to stopping the spread of the disease.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on C. difficile in health care settings.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: CMAJ, news release, Nov. 29, 2011

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