Making a Difference: Raising C Diff Awareness

In every profession we put the knowledge we have learned to use each day. While many people work on the frontlines of healthcare, where resilient bacteria live and thrive, most of us do not. We work in manufacturing facilities or on construction sites, where worries about the dangers of cuts, musculoskeletal injuries and falls are top of mine and very few people are concerned about the dangers of bacteria.

Clostridium difficile  (C Diff) is a resilient bacteria most commonly found in healthcare settings, but it is gaining momentum in communities and work environments and can be fatal. C. Diff is gram-positive and anaerobic; it is a spore that is able to live without oxygen. It is of the genus Clostridia, which is a common bacterium of the human intestine in 2 to 5 percent of the population. Previously, C Diff only became a serious gastrointestinal infection when individuals were exposed to antibiotic therapy, experienced long-term hospitalization or had an extended stay in a long-term care facility.

However, the risk of acquiring a C Diff infection (CDI) is increasing since it is highly infectious and can live for as long as 3 months on hard surfaces. This means that someone who has acquired C Diff and who does not practice good hand hygiene can transfer it to another person via a door handle, shopping cart or public restroom. As a result, C Diff is spreading throughout homes and workplaces.

There are significantly higher risk factors of acquiring C Diff for individuals who have weakened immune systems due to cancer, other medical conditions that lower their ability to fight infections, people who have been on antibiotic therapy and the elderly population. Antibiotics cause a disruption in the normal intestinal flora which leads to an over growth of C difficile bacteria in the colon.  The leading antibiotics known to disrupt the normal intestinal flora are Ampicillin, Amoxicillin, Cephalosporin, and Clindamycin, which are broad-spectrum antibiotics. Proton pump inhibitors have also been shown to be associated with an increased risk for CDI.

Making a Difference: Raising C Diff Awareness
EHS Today

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