Hospitals are places where you go to get better, but sometimes patients can end up even sicker or worse. There are some ways you can protect yourself from C-diff infection.
"What we do know if that just in hospitals this happens about 700,000 times a year in the United States. What's even more important than that number is that many of these infections can be prevented by following the best practices we know that can help deliver safe care," says Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, an infectious disease specialist at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
It's known as clostridium difficile or C-diff, a bacterium that can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon.
It can be caught anywhere, but people in long-term health care facilities and hospitals are particularly vulnerable.
The Dexter family knows this all too well.
"The longer you stay in the hospital, I think we all know, the more you're around sick people. People's immune systems are down. We like to think it's a very clean place," said Rich Dexter, whose family member was infected with C-diff.
Judy Dexter went into the hospital for complications from COPD, a chronic lung disease. Shortly after she developed C-diff; the Dexters have no doubt she got it in the hospital.
Overuse of antibiotics is one of the main reasons people get C-diff.
"We know roughly a third of the time patients are getting an antibiotic when they don't need them,” says Dr. Srinivasan.
Since equipment is used on many patients and travels from room to room, Dr. Srinivasan told us keeping equipment clean is critical.
Also, critical: something as basic as hand washing. As for patients, he advises them to take a pro-active approach.
"Ask your treating team what's being done to help me from getting an infection while I’m getting health care,” said Dr. Srinivasan.
Once these infections take hold, they are tricky to treat.
After massive doses of medicine and three fecal transplants, one of the ways C-diff is treated, Judy Dexter was unable to overcome the infection and died. Just six months after she went into the hospital for treatment of COPD.
The Dexters have learned a lot since then and want to share their knowledge so others might be able to avoid what they did.
"You go to hospitals to get better, you take antibiotics to get better, and for the most part, they work. We know as a family that you cannot trust that. You have to look at hospitals records. You have to question doctors," said Rich Dexter.
One of the ways to protect yourself from C-Diff is by avoiding unnecessary use of antibiotics.
The Mayo Clinic says to take a wait and see attitude with most ailments, but if you do need an anti-biotic ask your doctor to prescribe one that has a narrow range and take for the shortest time possible.
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