According to reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections have reached an all-time high. In fact, C. diff is linked to roughly 14,000 death between 2006 and 2007, up from the 3,000 deaths between 1999 and 2000. And according to, the vast majority - 94 percent - of cases are initiated while patients are in medical care facilities.

The CDC reports in "Vital Signs: Making Health Care Safer" that 25 percent of C. diff infections first appear in hospitalized patients, while 75 percent occur either in nursing home residents or in people recently treated in doctors’ offices or clinics. People most at risk are those who take antibiotics and receive care in an outpatient setting.

Dr. Clifford McDonald, a CDC epidemiologist and the lead author of the report, said that professionals can help reduce C. diff infections by following these steps:
• Isolate patients with C. diff.
• Wear gloves and gowns when working around C. diff patients, even for short visits.
• Clean surfaces in exam and treatment rooms with bleach or other spore-killing products.
• When a patient transfers to another facility, notify the medical team about a C. diff infection.

To determine the current prevalence of C. diff, CDC researchers reviewed data from their Emerging Infections Program, which conducted population-based surveillance from eight geographic areas, and the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). In 2010, a total of 10,342 cases of C. diff infection were identified via the Emerging Infections Program in 2010, and a total of 42,157 incident laboratory-identified CDI events were reported via the NHSN.

On a positive note, early results from state-led programs in Illinois, Massachusetts and New York showed that hospital collaboration can reduce C. diff infections, Dr. McDonald said. The 71 hospitals in these states that participated in C. diff–prevention programs reduced infection rates by 20 percent over 21 months.

"These promising results follow similar efforts in England, a nation that dropped C. diff infections by more than 50 percent during a recent 3-year period," the CDC researchers said in the full report.