Left: Clostridium difficile
(Columbus, OH) Beginning in January, the Ohio Department of Health began requiring health care providers and long-term residential facilities to report cases of Clostridium difficile, commonly known as C-diff.
The bacterium can cause severe diarrhea, colitis and in some cases, death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported a new, more aggressive strain of the bacterium has evolved that is resistant to many of the traditional antibiotic treatments.
There were 3,246 new cases of C-diff reported to the ODH in the first three months of this year, and 1,715 recurrent cases in the same period.
In Lucas County, 114 new cases of C-diff were reported by area hospitals and nursing homes from January through March, with 62 recurrent cases reported.
C-diff was the source of as many as 21 deaths in Cleveland-area hospitals in 2005 and was identified as the cause of more than 100 deaths at a hospital in Quebec, Canada.
The results of the first quarter reporting will help the state better monitor C-diff outbreaks in the future, according to Jay Carey of the Ohio Department of Health.
"Mandatory reporting of C-diff cases helps establish a baseline for future reference," he said. "In the past we would hear anecdotal evidence of outbreaks, but we did not have a gauge with which to measure what typical levels of C-diff should be."
Carey said the department is considering whether to continue the mandatory reporting past the original six-month trial.
Summit County had the highest rate of infection in the first quarter of 2006, with 4.29 new cases of C-diff per 1,000 people. Lucas County had a rate of 2.53 cases per 1,000 people.
Carey cautioned against reading too much into these statistics.
"Some counties will report higher rates simply because more hospital and nursing home facilities exist there," he said. Wood County, with only seven reported cases and just one hospital, has an artificially low rate when compared with the eight hospitals in Lucas County."
In addition, county statistics can be skewed by results from one facility, he said. An outbreak in one Mahoning County nursing home in late January in which 19 patients contracted C-diff accounted for almost 23 percent of the county's cases.
Carey said the spread of the antibiotic-resistant strain of C-diff has forced the state of Ohio to remain on guard.
This article is also available on the Toledo Free Press website.