As reported by

Recent research shows that when hospital anti-infection procedures are strictly followed, the rate of C. diff infection dwindles. The patients most at risk are elderly people with multiple medical problems who have been treated with antibiotics. The antibiotics kill off the "good" bacterium in their intestines, allowing the toxic C. diff germ to colonize the patient's gut and wreak havoc on the intestinal lining.

Kim Neiman, director of infection control at Renown Regional Medical Center, said the hospital has an antibiotic stewardship program that ensures physicians and pharmacists work in concert to provide the right drug to correctly treat an infection. She said other practices used to manage C. diff include the use of gloves and gowns in infected patients' rooms. She said basic hand-washing is required for everyone from the janitorial staff to visiting family.

Other hospitals in Northern Nevada said they follow the protocols and put other measures in place.

Dr. Dan Ferguson, chief medical officer at Saint Mary's Regional Medical Center, said his hospital also has an antibiotic stewardship program that screens high-risk patients for C. diff. Once a patient is diagnosed with the germ, "contact precautions" are observed, he said. Hospital staff and visitors are required to wear disposable gowns and gloves when in the patient's room. Bleach solutions are used for cleaning hard services.

Ferguson said all hospitals will see cases of C. diff, particularly among frail, elderly patients, but the important thing is to contain the infections so the germs don't travel from patient-to-patient.

"We are seeing more (C. diff) cases coming in from the community," he said, noting that infections outside hospital and nursing home settings were previously rare.

Mary Mang, director of quality at Carson-Tahoe Regional Health Care, said  observing hand-washing precautions and using protective clothing when visiting C. diff patients avoids cross-contamination. The precautions and policies for stopping the spread of infections work, she said, but "you can't afford to be lackadaisical."

Steve Winters, whose mother died in June after contracting C. diff during a hospital stay, became familiar with precautions against the infection after his mother was diagnosed with the disease, which he had never heard of. Winters had to wear gloves and a gown while visiting her, but he witnessed cleaning staff enter the room without protective precautions and saw some hospital staff come in with gloves but no gowns.