The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published a sobering report in The New England Journal of Medicine about Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), a deadly diarrheal infection. According to the study, almost 500,000 people suffered from a C. difficile infection in a single year. It has now become the most common microbial cause of healthcare-associated infections (HAI) in U.S. hospitals.
Those over 65 are particularly at risk for infection. In fact, the report noted that one in every three infections of C. difficile affects those 65 and older. More than 80 percent of deaths caused by this infection are among this demographic.
The report also found that approximately 66 percent of infections were associated with an inpatient stay in a health care facility. A number also acquired their infection while receiving care at an outpatient center such as a doctor’s or dentist’s office.
Inappropriate use of antibiotics plays a major role in C. difficile infection. According to the CDC, 30 percent to 50 percent of antibiotics prescribed in hospitals are unnecessary or incorrect.
The good news from this study is that the CDC has a plan in place to address this issue, with a new target to reduce infection rates by 2020.
For the Alliance for Aging Research, reducing HAIs such as C. difficile are a huge priority. As this report has shown, those 65 and over are disproportionately affected by HAIs.
The Alliance raises awareness about HAIs through its collection of facts and stats on our Silver Book website. We also work with like-minded groups to educate policymakers on the seriousness of this issue to older adults.
This CDC report represents a needed focus on a serious health concern. We hope this leads to more attention on the dangers of HAIs, especially to older adults.