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The Rochester Approach To Fighting C. Difficile

The Rochester Approach To Fighting C. Difficile

medical doctor comforting senior patient

Medical facilities across the country are seeing more outbreaks of especially resilient bacteria – Clostridium difficile. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that this pathogen was responsible for almost half a million infections in 2011 and close to 30,000 deaths. The city of Rochester, New York is fighting back as the hospitals unite to conquer C. difficile.

A Little About Clostridium Difficile

C. difficile tends to infect older adults and individuals with suppressed immune systems. Recently, hospitals and long-term care facilities have seen an increase in antibiotic-resistant infections involving this organism. Current outbreaks occur typically after use of antibiotics and more infections are showing up in patients that are not considered high risk. This means younger and healthier people are falling victim to this deadly superbug.

Symptoms of a C. difficile infection include:

  • Watery diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps – mild to severe
  • Fever
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen includes
  • Kidney failure
  • High white blood cell count

Hospitals have found this bacterium thrives on bed rails, call button and door knobs for months. It can also travel from person to person, so patients transferring to long care facilities take it with them.

The Fight in Rochester

Research by the medical community in Rochester determined each facility trying to stave off this infection alone was not working. It is estimated that recent outbreaks cost the city almost five million dollars a year. Instead of continuing to fight the spread of C. difficile alone, the competing healthcare systems have joined forces to create a stronger front and the effort has paid off.

After just one year, C. difficile infections are down by 36 percent across two health care systems: the University of Rochester Medical Center and Rochester Regional Health System. By taking a multidisciplinary approach, the collaboration is showing other cities that working together makes a difference both in patient outcomes and revenue.

The Rochester Approach

Their approach is quite simple. The campaign began with a focusing on the cleaning process. The staff was taught to scrub hard using bleach wipes in order to get resilient bacteria off all surfaces. Each room is inspected after cleaning with a tool able to detect even small amounts of contamination.

The facilities have changed their policy regarding antibiotics, as well. The collaborative guidelines laid out in Rochester now prevent physicians from prescribing a class of drugs associated with C. difficile infections without approval. There is also a new standard in place for diagnosis and treatment of urinary-tract infections. Research of the area showed that five out of six hospital patients were treated unnecessarily for UTIs.

The city hopes to involve doctor’s offices and dentists in the fight in the near future. Around 35 percent of the infections did not involve hospitalization. The group is looking for other sources and including them in their long-term plans to combat one of the most deadly superbugs out there – C. difficile.


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