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How hospitals can prevent the spread of deadly C. diff

One of the first elements of personal hygiene you learned as a child was probably washing your hands. Your parents likely reminded you to wash up before meals, after using the bathroom and when getting ready for bed. You may not have understood the purpose of all that washing, but as you grew, you learned how this simple act could help prevent the spread of germs that make you sick.

Your hands pick up and carry germs everywhere you go, but, ironically, there may be no place where you are more vulnerable to the illnesses germs spread than in a hospital. In fact, one particular bacterial infection is the number one cause of hospital deaths.

Where it lives

More patients die from C. diff bacterial infection than those who die from AIDS or staph infections, and despite the frequent cry that antibiotics are the reason, the truth may be more basic. In a place where cleanliness and sterilization are apparently held in high priority, this deadly germ spreads when your hands touch unclean surfaces, such as:

  • Call buttons
  • The arms of wheelchairs
  • Nurse's uniforms
  • Food trays
  • Bed rails

Mississippi hospitals spend a great deal of money ensuring their floors are mopped and shining, but researchers say if that money was diverted to wiping down the surfaces, especially bed rails, with a bleach wipe just once a day, the instances of C. diff infections could decrease 79 percent. Bleach is the most effective way to kill the C. diff germ, which is protected by a hard shell, making it more difficult to kill that even the AIDS virus.

How it spreads

When you touch these surfaces that other contaminated hands have touched, you may then consume C. diff bacteria in your food or by touching your face or mouth. For example, after touching your bed railing, if you pick up your sandwich or a piece of fruit, you are likely to consume the bacteria.

C. diff suppresses the good bacteria in your body, resulting in severe digestive issues which leave you dehydrated and increase your chances of dying by 4.5 times. In fact, 9 percent of hospital patients who contract C. diff don't come home.

While some hospitals are adopting new protocol to fight the spread of this deadly infection, the hospital you choose may not be one of them. Health and safety advocates recommend you do research on the rate of infections in your hospital before making arrangements for surgical procedures or prolonged stays. You can never be too careful when it comes to protecting your health.

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