Clostridium difficile (aka C. diff)

Clostridium difficile (aka C. diff)

Your doctor’s offices, including Primary Care and Urgent Care centers, may be infecting you with a deadly bacteria called C. diff, according to a recent CDC report. “The Centers for Disease Control is raising a red flag that a potentially deadly bacteria may be lurking in your doctor’s office,” reports CNN in a news report yesterday. And It’s not just C. Diff: The Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly two million patients in the U.S. get infections in the hospital, and about 90,000-100,000 of these patients die as a result of their infections.images-1

A study funded by the CDC and published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine  demonstrated that C. difficile was responsible for almost half a million infections and was associated with approximately 29,000 deaths in 2011. What is raises further alarms is that since 2005, this infection has been increasingly reported among young, healthy individuals residing in the community. 

In a separate CDC study published in JAMA Internal Medicine 2013, more than 150,000 of the half a million infections had no documented inpatient health care exposure. Then a CDC study found that 82 percent of patients with community-associated C. difficile infections reported exposure to outpatient health care settings such as doctor’s or dentist’s offices in the 12 weeks before their diagnosis.

Finally, a March 2014 New England Journal study, researchers found C. diff present in six out of seven outpatient clinics, including on patients’ chairs and examining tables.

Crowded waiting rooms are very difficult to control from an infection standpoint

Crowded waiting rooms are very difficult to control from an infection standpoint

According to the CDC’s press release from Wednesday, “C. difficile infections cause immense suffering and death for thousands of Americans each year,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “These infections can be prevented by improving antibiotic prescribing and by improving infection control in the health care system.

What Can You Do?

There are 2 things you can do. First, wash you hands with soap and water after visiting any clinic, dentist or doctor’s office–hand sanitizers do NOT work against C. Diff! The second thing you can do is to ask your doctor if you really need a particular antibiotic and if something more “mild” would work as

Get Smart About Antibiotics from the CDC

Get Smart About Antibiotics from the CDC

well. A great resources is provided by the CDC’s “Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work”. 

What Your Doctor’s Office Can Do

Physician offices need to up their game to meet basic infection control standards, according to the CDC. Out patient doctors offices and urgent care centers often don’t focus enough on infection control.

One Annapolis Primary Care and Urgent Care, Evolve Medical, was designed from the ground up with not only patient comfort in mind but also rigid infection control. Following the CDC’s Guide to Infection Prevention for the Outpatient Setting, Evolve has assigned one member to be the infection control expert and dedicated the resources necessary to stay well ahead of recommendations.

Evolve’s founder and CEO, Dr. Michael Freedman states, “If you walk into an office and it feels dingy and dirty, it very well may be. Over-crowded waiting rooms, long waits, old magazines and excessively busy appearing practices intuitively would be the most likely places to be unable to keep up with appropriate infection control or simply not have the necessary staff.

“To be sure, any congregation of ill people should be considered high on the list of dirty places — hospitals, nursing homes, and yes, your doctor’s office,” stated a WebMD article from in June 2006.