Understanding the cause of hospital superbug epidemics

More than one thousand cases of C. diff (Clostridium difficile) are diagnosed each week in the UK, and more patients die from this infection than on our roads every year. Candis readers point out that concerns about these superbugs in hospitals aren’t helped by statistics which indicate that many NHS hospitals are not compliant with hygiene regulations. Several hospitals have fallen short when it comes to using the hygiene measures implemented by the Government.

The problem is not complacency however, but that it takes a great deal of time and effort to keep a hospital hygienically clean; within twenty four hours of a deep clean being performed, the hospital is once again contaminated, and the process needs to begin all over again. In addition to introducing these hygiene measures, the Government is also calling for all NHS hospitals to start implementing an MRSA screening process for patients before routine operations are carried out.

MRSA is one of the most notorious superbugs; Candis Magazine recently learned that approximately one third of the population carries the bacteria in our nose and on our skin, without developing the actual infection. This is referred to as bacteria colonisation. However, if the bacteria enter the bloodstream via a cut or a scratch on the surface of the skin, it can lead to issues such as impetigo or boils, or much more serious infections. Up until the nineties, MRSA was extremely rare but over the course of the last twenty years, cases of infection have risen dramatically. The majority of MRSA infections occur on the skin and cause symptoms such as carbuncles, abscesses and rashes.

MRSA normally spreads via contaminated equipment and hands; because of this, hospital visitors and staff must always wash their hands thoroughly before and after they visit a patient. MRSA can lead to very serious diseases like septicaemia and pneumonia, and can usually only be treated by intravenous antibiotics. C. diff is an equally dangerous superbug that comes from a strain of intestinal bacteria; symptoms can range from fever and stomach problems, to internal bleeding. Most C. diff infections occur in those aged sixty five or older, usually after prolonged use of antibiotics, which results in the healthy bacteria being killed, and the C. diff bacteria taking their place. Candis readers were surprised to learn that although this superbug is not normally spread via sneezing or coughing, it can be spread by contaminated hands and surfaces.

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