C. difficile infections, mortality, and medical care costs "have reached historic highs," says the CDC's report, published in Tuesday's Vital Signs, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The agency says these outbreaks, marked by symptoms of excessive diarrhea and sepsis are linked to 14,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.
From 2000 to 2009, the number of hospitalized patients with a C. difficile discharge diagnosis more than doubled, form approximately 139,000 to 336,000, and the number with a primary diagnosis more than tripled from 33,000 to 111,000, the CDC report said.
Costs of care are an important element as well. Just one hospital-onset case is estimated to cost between $5,042 to $7,179 in excess medical expenses. Across the nation, treating C. difficile adds $897 million to $1.3 billion to healthcare expenses, the report said. Transmission easily occurs after someone touches an infected surface, and transfers C. difficile spores to the mouth.
A Drug-Resistant Strain
One development that has exacerbated the problem is the emergence in 2004 of a hypervirulent strain of C. difficile called NAP1, which strongly resists treatment with drugs commonly used in community settings to treat the infection.