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C. difficile outbreak at Saltspring hospital

Aug 16 2012

The Vancouver Island Health Authority has declared an outbreak of C. difficile at Lady Minto Hospital on Salt spring Island after four patients became infected.

Since July 21, the small hospital has had four new cases of C. difficile. An epidemiological investigation suggests the disease was transmitted in the facility, VIHA said.

The organism is a persistent challenge in care settings. Those who are on antibiotics or who have weakened immune systems - such as cancer patients, the elderly or those recovering from surgery - can become gravely sick. It can leave patients bedridden for months with severe diarrhea and it can kill.

One of the infected patients has died, though VIHA said that the disease was not a factor.

When someone who is C. difficile positive dies in a health-care setting, a medical review is done and the disease is assessed as the cause of death, a contributing factor, or not a factor, said VIHA spokeswoman Suzanne Germain in an email.

"In this case, it was determined it was not a factor," Germain said. "These determinations are made based on a set of criteria relating to the patient's other medical reason for being in hospital in the first place."

Three of the infected patients remain in the hospital.

One has recovered while the other two are responding to treatment, according to VIHA.

Most healthy people exposed to C. difficile shed the bug in their stool without ever showing symptoms or getting sick.

For that reason, VIHA said the outbreak is not considered a risk to the public, and patients should continue to attend scheduled appointments or the emergency ward.

Information about precautions will be available to visitors who provide care for patients.

Lady Minto Hospital last experienced a case of C. difficile in November 2011, when one person was infected. Fewer than two cases per year typically occur in the facility, VIHA said.

VIHA said it is working to minimize the spread of C. difficile through early screening and recognition of symptoms and the minimization of antibiotic use. ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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