Everyone in Kentucky who goes to a healthcare facility risks contracting a healthcare-associated infection (HAI); if you are on antibiotics, your risk skyrockets.
According to FamilyDoctor.org, the incident rates of most HAIs are declining. One, however, is occurring at a historically high rate, to the tune of 14,000 US deaths each year: Clostridium difficile infections.
Meet the Germ
Clostridium difficile, or C. diff., is a bacterium that occurs naturally in human intestines. Normally, it causes its host no trouble; but when something disrupts the balance in the intestines, C. diff. may start growing out of control. It releases toxins that attack the intestinal lining, causing C. diff. infection.
What Are the Symptoms?
A mild case of C. diff. results in abdominal pain or tenderness and frequent, watery diarrhea (at least three times a day for several days). More severe cases may include the following symptoms:
- Frequent, watery diarrhea (as many as 15 times a day)
- Severe abdominal pain or tenderness
- Loss of appetite
- Low-grade fever (up to 101° for children; 100°–102° for adults)
- Blood or pus in feces
What Are the Risk Factors?
The following are factors that elevate the risk of developing a C. diff. infection:
- Antibiotic use, especially broad spectrum or when taken for an extended time
- Gastrointestinal tract surgery
- Abdominal surgery, in which the intestines are moved
- Residence in an extended-care facility
- Colon disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome or colorectal cancer
- Weakened immune system
- Previous C. diff. infection
- Age (65 years old or older)
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