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C. diff more deadly than Ebola

More than 7,500 people have died as a result of the latest Ebola outbreak, galvanizing the health care community across the world into action.  There is little doubt that Ebola is a terrible disease with a mortality rate of one in five among those who are infected, but there is a far more common and deadly killer stalking America.

Clostridium difficile, or C. diff, is a growing health hazard, infecting more than 400,000 Americans a year, many of them frail, elderly patients, but this silent killer receives little headlines.

According to an article in Forbes by Robert Pearl, M.D., CEO of The Permanente Medical Group only ten people in the United States have been infected with Ebola, two of which have died.  According to Dr. Pearl, C. diff poses the far greater risk. Yet C. diff lurks under the radar while Ebola strikes terror in the American public.

The true Headline

Despite the fact that C. diff, kills at least 14,000 Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many people don’t even know it exists, or how it is spread. C. diff is shed in feces and causes diarrhea that can be fatal.  Incidences of C. diff are on the rise, while other healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) are in decline.

So what makes C. diff such an insidious threat? First, it’s tough outer shell.  C. diff is a spore with a hard shell that makes it more difficult to kill. Second, C. diff can live for a long time on surfaces, such as toilets, sinks, bathtubs and other surfaces people touch. The spores also can be spread around a room by air currents and hitch rides more easily from room to room on people and objects.

But there is hope.  C. diff can be stopped. In fact, C. diff is highly preventable, in part by diligent hand washing by patients and healthcare workers. And by the newest weapon in the HAI prevention arsenal – the Halo Disinfection System – a whole-room fogger that has a validated 99.9999% kill rate against C. diff and a number of other pathogens.  The Halo Disinfection system has been shown to reduce C. diff. infections by 66 percent by decontaminating every nook and cranny of entire rooms.

Due to lack of precautions and proper sanitation, C. diff rates are growing, but this trend can be stopped. Studies show that up to one-third of healthcare workers are lax about hand washing. Plus, the vast majority of hospitals and healthcare facilities have not yet invested in whole-room fogging systems that provide total room surface disinfection and cost less than $15 per treated room.

Like Legionnaire’s Disease and other illnesses that sparked widespread public fear before methods of control were established, hopefully, Ebola will soon join their ranks, but meanwhile a more prevalent killer remains unchecked.  Tens of thousands of lives are at stake each and every year as the number of C. diff cases mount.

The time for action is now.