CDC issues warning on C. difficile infections

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued an advisory regarding the rising incidence of Clostridium difficile (C. difficile)-related infections, which are now causing 14,000 deaths annually.

While most types of healthcare-associated infections are declining, one infection -- caused by C. difficile -- remains at historically high levels. Healthcare professionals are being asked to take precautions to prevent these types of infections, which cost the healthcare system at least $1 billion per year, according to the CDC.

Those most at risk are people, especially older adults, who take antibiotics and also get medical care, according to the advisory.

When a person takes antibiotics, the CDC said, good germs that protect against infection are destroyed for several months, during which time patients can get sick from C. difficile picked up from contaminated surfaces or spread from a health care provider's hands.

To help minimize the risk of C. difficile transmision, healthcare providers, including dentists, can pay closer attention to prescribing antibiotics for patients since the risk of getting C. difficile greatly increases for months following discontinuation. In addition, they can be more aware of infection rates in their facilities or practices, the CDC said.

About 25% of C. difficile infections first show symptoms in hospital patients; 75% first show symptoms in nursing home patients or in people recently cared for in doctors' offices and clinics.