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article imageBacterium outbreak kills 16 in Niagara area

By Kim I. Hartman     Jul 4, 2011 in Health
Niagara - The Niagara region of Ontario has been the center of an outbreak of C difficile, which has claimed the lives of 16 people. Seventy-eight confirmed cases have been be reported at three different hospital in the Niagara area.
The Niagara Health System (NHS), said in a Outbreak Notice, that containment efforts have been underway since the first case was reported May 28, and so far they have been considered a success.
Since the outbreak was declared, St. Catharines General has had the most reports of the infection with 40 confirmed cases. The Greater Niagara General Site reported 14 cases since June, while the Welland Site has 12 patients suffering from the menacing infection. There have been 16 community aquired cases which are unrelated to the three hospital, said NHS. The first reported case was at St. Catherines General.
"A team of infection control specialist were dispatched by the Ontario government to the Niagara area amid concerns in the communities that hospital officials initially kept the public in the dark about the problem," reports The Globe and Mail. Community leaders have questioned how the outbreak spread from St. Catherines General to two other hospitals. A hospital spokesman said no patient transfers have occurred.
What is C. difficile?
Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) causes diarrhea and is one of the most common infections in hospitals and long-term care facilities. People most at risk after exposure are typically of advanced age, and with underlying illnesses such as inflammatory bowel disease or immunodeficiency, who are also taking antibiotics. Antibiotics kill off the “good bacteria” in the bowel and allow the C. difficile to flourish and cause illness, according to the NHS.
Sue Matthews, interim chief executive officer of Niagara Health, told The Globe and Mail "that it is impossible to determine at this point how great a toll the infection will take on patients."
“Handwashing, handwashing, handwashing,” Dr. Matthews said, “We can’t say it enough. It’s all about getting us out of outbreak and preventing any further spread.”
Visiting hours have been limited at the three hospitals since the outbreak began. Hospital officials are asking visitors not to visit multiple rooms to avoid spreading the infection. Visitors are reminded to wash their hands before and after visiting a patient and to not visit the hospital if they are feeling ill. Some visitors will be required to wear protective clothing and gloves when visiting hospital patients diagnosed with the bacterial infection.
The Niagara Health System serves 434,000 residents across 12 municipalities, according to CBC news. Reporting of the infection is mandatory in Ontario after an earlier outbreak claimed 62 lives "C. difficile is responsible for the deaths of 2,000 patients in the Quebec since 2003," said the CBC.
Members of the public who have questions or concerns about the outbreak can call a community information line, 905-378-4647, ext. 44572, to speak with an Infection Control Practioner. "This is a general information number only. Medical advice or assessment will not be provided to callers to this line," according to an updated news release from Niagara Health Systems. "Callers seeking medical advice are asked to call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0007 or present to the nearest Urgent Care Centre or Emergency Department."
More about bacterium outbreak, Niagara, C difficile, Clostridium difficile, Superbug
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