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Hospital reports more intestinal infections

Over the past two months, United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia has had an increased number of patients infected with a common but potentially deadly form of bacteria.

From Feb. 28 to April 15, 18 cases of clostridium difficile, or C. difficile, were reported to the state Health Department, said Colleen Flynn, hospital spokeswoman.

The infection occurs most frequently in patients taking antibiotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It can result in diarrhea, fever and a loss of appetite.

Patients hospitalized with inflammatory bowel disease have a sixfold increased risk of death if they become infected with C. difficile bacteria, according to a British study reported in U.S. News and World Report.

The relatively common bacteria typically are found in the stomach and gastrointestinal tract, Flynn said, and usually affect only those with weakened immune systems. She called previous news reports from Rochester outlets inaccurate.

"The way it has been portrayed has been very alarming to people," she said. "It's like saying the common cold is going to kill you."

The hospital typically sees two or three patients per week seeking treatment for C. difficile, but that does not necessarily mean the bacteria were acquired in the hospital, Flynn said. She said the disease can develop as a result of taking antibiotics.

A hospital patient who had contracted the bacteria died last month. But the patient had a multitude of health problems, and whether death resulted from C. difficile remains unclear, Flynn said.

At the end of March, the hospital contacted the Health Department after an increase in the reported cases of the bacteria. The hospital had six confirmed cases of the bacteria last weekend and was screening an additional six patients for the illness. The number of patients receiving treatment has been decreasing, she said.

Of those cases, some completed treatment and were discharged, while others remained in the facility for other care. New cases were added, and one patient chose not to pursue treatment, Flynn said.

No patient has contracted C. difficile in United Memorial since April 15, and the hospital has acquired a device that allows staff to conduct tests, Flynn said.

The tests revealed that the spores, which live for up to 30 days on dry surfaces, could be eliminated by applying greater force when cleaning.

Special precautions are taken with patients admitted to the hospital who have diarrhea and continue until tests show the patient does not have C. difficile, Flynn said. All visitors are required to wear gloves in the hospital.

e-mail: cspecht@buffnews.com

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