Hospital Bacteria Strain Killing Patients

(CBS) — You may have heard of MRSA, the antibiotic-resistant superbug that can eat through patients’ skin.

But there’s another bug few have heard about that can be just as menacing. As CBS 2’s Susan Carlson reports, it’s causing deadly — and preventable — infections.

Three months after having a knee replacement, Kathleen Powers is finally feeling well enough to do something as simple as make herself a cup of tea.

But her slow recovery has nothing to do with her knee. An infection she picked up in the hospital ravaged her digestive system.

“You feel like you’re not going to get better and you feel like you’re dying,” Powers says.

Tests confirmed she had C-Diff, short for clostridium dificile, a bacteria that attacks the intestine.

The Centers for Disease Control say C-Diff kills thousands of Americans a year. And the numbers are growing. In Illinois, cases of the illness tracked in hospitals doubled from 1999 to 2009 to more than 16,000.

Antibiotics are the standard treatment, but that doesn’t always work.

Surgeon Rocco Ricciardi and the CDC blame a new strain of the bacteria. Ricciardi says it’s more aggressive, produces more toxins and is harder to treat.

C-Diff is highly contagious and is usually spread by health care workers whose hands aren’t clean. Washing with soap and water before and after entering a patient’s room is the only way to kill it. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not work.

The microscopic spores of C-Diff can also survive for weeks on hard surfaces like a counter, a phone or a handrail.

Powers says hospitals need to do more to educate and protect their patients.

“You don’t think you’re going to go in and come out with something deadly,” she says.

Certain antibiotics can actually increase your risk of C-Diff. So if you are having surgery, talk to your doctor. Make sure your caregivers keep their hands clean or wear gloves.

Patients at greatest risk are 65 and over.

  • Margaret Suarez

    I contacted C-DIFF in Rush after I had surgery. It was terrible I really thought I would die. I lost over 50 pounds in less than 3 months. From Aug 2009 until 2010
    I was in & out of the hospital taking large amounts of very expense antibotics that didn’t work and when they did it was for a very short time. The pain was unbelievable. Not to mention the embarassment & the confinement to the house.
    It was beyond horrible. I still am not myself & probally never will be.

  • Hospital/OSHA Certified

    Spores can live up to 5 months on hard surfaces. Bleach is recommended. Was hands regularly with antibacterial soap. Hand sanitizers do not kill this bacteria. See Mayo Clinic web site for symptoms.

  • m. sami

    i have been to a few hospitals here in the chicago area…and i can tell u from experience…they r filthy..i dont kno how some of them r staying open,,,in fact i was not surprised to see this in the news.
    I was a housekeeper in a hospital in WV and believe me, if i cleaned and left this kind of thing behind, i would not of had a job and our hospital would of been shut down…every year the state comes in and inspects and we did pass with l;ying colors…but we did it with lots of hard work from the whole housekeeping team.
    so i have a practiced eye on what to look for in this case…and believe me…it goes beyond hand washing and so forth…it all has to do with the hospital staff being clean and cleaning up after every patient that comes along.
    ! hospital i was in here in chicago…we were in the ER, isolation…there was old blood on the floor…we ended up in the er isolation room for like over 5 hrs,,,i never seen any housekeeping staff coming to even mop or sweep the floor during this whole time…let alone pulling the trash…i seen them walk thru the area among other areas…but they sure was not cleaning…and we wont mention under the bed rails or under the cot my husbandwas laying in nor the vents up above our heads with all the dust and stuff on themmmmjust filthy i tell u.
    I even applied for a job in a few of these hospitals as housekeeping,,,but i guess if u r a white american woman age of 52, can read and understand english very well … they wont hire u…coz this is what i get,,,no positions available..
    so to end this statment people…just beware of where u lay urself down at and whop handles u for health reasons…and dont b afraid to have them wash their hands in front of u wher eu can see and have them call housekeeping to clean up the area where u r…it will possibly save ur life…thank you for hearing me out..
    p.s. if there is any1 out there who needs a good housekeeper who is trust worthy and good at her job…then plz contact me…

    • Hospital/OSHA Cert

      Yes you’re absolutely correct. I commend you on your experience and knowledge. I was an Environmental Engineering Manager for ServiceMaster in northeast Michigan and had a great housekeeping team. Keep plugging away. Thank you for a great job well done.

  • Been There

    A doctor told me I am safer anywhere except at a hospital. How’s THAT for advice?

    I was in a s.w. suburban hospital for 1 week for double pneumonia. The hospital was a filthy dump–diarrehea all over the bathroom floor, thanks to my “roommate”. The nurses were beasts. Several of the nurses ridiculed the patients, giving some patients insulting nicknames.

    I never saw any of the nurses wash their hands at the sink provided in each room and one of the nurses had a meltdown when I asked her to please wash her hands.

    If you have to go into a hospital, you better know how to fight. Or have a tough-as-nails relative fight for you. Be prepared to name names and complain directly to your doctor. If he refuses to help you, then call the police.

  • ileen

    Yes, the hospital and nursing homes are filthy. Stains of BM is on the curtains floors and bath rooms. I was in housekeeping years ago..the housekeeping supervisor would check the rooms. I am not sure what they are doing these days – cost cutting.

  • angela tomski

    Was very glad to see this piece on cbs news by Susan Carlson……my mom had been in hospitals in the nw suburbs and it is a sad commentary on the nursing profession that they themselves are so careless knowing there is this issue and ….do not wash their hands when going from patient to patient….if you complain you become a persona nongrata and then constantly worry that your loved one is not getting the care that they should be…my sister and I would bring in Clorox cleanups and wipe donw the bedtrays and bedrails and constantly check the bathrooms……if you ring for a nurse for any of this they tell you to call for your C.N.A….these are the nursing assisstants and it seems that everything is handed off to them….i dread the day that i would have to be in a hospital…..if you can do for yourself well then you willbe fine but if you cannot…..good luck

  • Paul

    “One cup of bleach per gallon of water,” at home, to clean. We try to avoid public places. Oven hood, to prevent a base of grease on everything and everywhere. One cup of bleach per gallon. A together project for life, while head of household surfs the net.

  • Lara, RN

    Just so everyone knows.. C.Diff is naturally in your intestines. Taking certain and heavy-duty antibiotics causes other intestinal bacteria to be wiped out which allows C.Diff to take over and cause infection. It isn’t always health care workers spreading the disease.

    • Joanna Sitz

      C-Diff is the spore that gets transfered from an infected person, to a patient who has been on a long term antibotic use, then when inclean hands transfer the spore to their mouth through giving the patient pills, ect. then once the spore get in it takes over the intestines of the victim, and wreaks havoc. The facts are is that it is 100% preventable!!! It should not be a side effect of a hospital stay!! I’m healthy I and not on intibotics so my body will fight the C-diff if I were infected, but not an ill person who has antibotic use!!! Bleach is the only thing that kills the spore!! Hands washing is also a prevents the spread!!

  • dora

    Having my knee replaced at Res. hosp. on 3/25 . Do I need to bring my own disinfectent with? This has scared me.

    • Dawn Risk

      Yes it is Heath car workers spreading this germ ……..figures Lara, RN would write something like this…….Congratulations to you if you are one of the few that wash your hands!!!!! So then you didn’t spread this horrible infection….but my mother about died from it and it was because of the extreme lack of hand washing that we noticed in the hospital and nursing home. I don’t think my siblings and I can even count how many times we had to tell the nurses to wash their hands before touching our mother. And then they were so belligerent afterward to us and my poor mother after she had been in the hospital because of a car accident that nearly claimed her life!!!!! Oh yes and I am still angry because of it!!!! She is in her 70’s however she was one of the fortunate older people in great heath and her actions were that of someone in their 50s. The car accident and this horrible C-diff has taken these precious years away from her. She can’t go to her favorite place Turkey Run or go shopping with her daughters because she has to stay close to a toilet. C-diff ruins your insides and it’s NEVER the same. Why hasn’t something been done. The nurses we talked to ALL told us it was the anti biotic. WRONG…yes it is true that the anti biotic is part of the equations but getting the germ from unclean hands is unnecessarily causes this horrible infection. NURSES, DOCTORS, Hospitals…….COME ON WASH YOUR HANDS!!!!!!!!!!!! ……..DAWN RISK

      • Dawn Risk

        A doctor told us TWO things have to happen to get C-Diff. Anti-biotic and poop in your mouth………….plain and simple……..

  • Mary

    After being on a very strong antibiotic for divertuculitis I contracted C-diff. Had diahrea for 5 weeks, nonstop. And it started 4 months after I was off the medication. Just like Lara, RN said, it isn’t always health care workers. I was never in the hospital. Just on antibiotics.

  • Bobbie

    A friend of a friend is in the hospital with a horrible post surgical infection. The patient asked her doctor to use an antibiotic solution that is know to kill MRSA (Silvion). The doctor wrote a script for her before leaving town for a week, and the nurses used Silvion on the infected wound till his return. The infection was under control, the wound was on its way to healing, but when her doctor came back to work he took her off Silvion and the infection was back. So, I agree with “Been There” you better have someone to fight for you when you are hospitalized otherwise doctors like the one described will let patients die. I was told that this patient already sued the hospital for a prior “mistake” they made, and this is probably their payback. They will intentionally take her off anything that will get her better.

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