The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently published a study that reports a substantial number of people have been infected by a potentially deadly bacteria who hadn’t been in a hospital. Those infected had instead recently visited a doctor or dentist’s office. The bacteria in question, C. difficile, is a type of healthcare-associated infection (HAI) that caused an estimated half a million infections and 29,000 deaths in 2011.

The bacteria cause inflammation of the colon called colitis. People who take antibiotics and get medical care are at risk. Once infected, C. difficile can cause deadly diarrhea. Researchers found the bacteria in six out of seven outpatient clinics in 2013 study in Ohio. Dr. Cliff McDonald, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC, said, “This is really an important issue. We need to understand better how people are getting C. diff.”

Protecting yourself from C. diff

The CDC has compiled the following information about C. diff symptoms and prevention. First, the elderly and those with medical problems have the best chance of getting C. diff. The bacteria can live outside the body for a long time. An infection can spread from person-to-person on dirty equipment or on the hands of healthcare providers or visitors. Common symptoms include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Belly pain and tenderness
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Fever

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, please seek professional medical attention. An infection is usually easy to treat with antibiotics, but, if left untreated, can require surgery to remove infected parts of the intestines. Infection is also more likely when taking a broad-spectrum antibiotic. These powerful drugs eliminate good gut bacteria, leaving prime conditions for C. diff. The bacteria isn’t vulnerable to alcohol-based hand sanitizers, so it’s best to wash your hands after a visit to the doctor’s office.

When seeking medical care, make sure that any healthcare professional you come in to contact with has cleaned their hands. It’s ok to ask your doctor to wash his hands before touching you. Also, be sure to wash your own hands after a visit to any office or hospital.

If you or someone you know has contracted C. difficile, or has suffered any medical condition as a result of a doctor or hospital visit, please contact Crandall & Pera Law for a free consultation. We maintain multiple office locations throughout Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia for your convenience.