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C. diff infections happen when clostridium difficile bacteria get into the colon. There, they multiply rapidly and cause severe diarrhea by producing toxins that attack the inner linings of your intestines. The inflammation can kill healthy tissue inside the intestine and colon, causing diarrhea and potentially other medical problems.
Many C. diff infections are hospital-acquired, and happen because the hospital and the staff there did not take proper precautions to keep the bacteria at bay. Infections also can happen when you take antibiotics.
C. diff can be fatal for older victims, and debilitating for anyone who gets an infection. If you went to a hospital in Philadelphia and got a C. diff infection while there, there was likely nothing that you could have done to avoid it. The hospital should have to compensate you for your experience and your suffering. The medical malpractice and personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can work to make this happen.
C. Diff Infections
Clostridium difficile is a bacterium that is found naturally in lots of places, including:
- Food, especially in processed meats
It can also be found in the intestines and colon of between 2 and 5 percent of human adults without producing the symptoms of a C. diff infection.
C. diff infections happen when C. diff spores from feces get into the mouth or the mucous membranes of victims, like their nose. This means the transmission of C. diff involves the fecal-to-oral route.
Once inside the body, the spores, which are resistant to acids like those found in the stomach, pass through the stomach and enter the intestines and colon. There, bile acids trigger the reproductive cycle of the spores and they spread rapidly.
Nearly 500,000 get C. diff infections every year in the U.S., and nearly 10% of people over the age of 65 die within a month of diagnosis. Those that do survive are more likely than others to get infected with C. diff again. Unlike many other infections, these numbers are actually getting worse – a strain of C. diff bacteria became resistant to certain antibiotics in the early 2000s, leading to a sharp increase in the number of C. diff infections and worse outcomes for people who get infected.
Causes of C. Diff
C. diff infections are caused by unclean food preparation that allows fecal contamination of food, as well as poor hygiene. If you eat food contaminated with C. diff bacteria from feces, the bacteria can get into your digestive tract and lead to an infection. You can also come into indirect contact with C. diff if someone else has C. diff spores on their hands and they touch you or a surface that you then touch. Spores can pass indirectly from person to person in this way, infecting numerous people.
C. diff bacteria are resistant to both acid as well as heat, so certain hygienic measures – like alcohol-based hand lotions – do not kill them. This can also make C. diff spores difficult to remove from surfaces that they have already infiltrated.
Paradoxically, antibiotics can also cause a C. diff infection. Antibiotics kill lots of different germs in your body, including some that are beneficial and that are actually keeping an invasion of C. diff spores in check. This is why the symptoms of lots of C. diff infections only begin soon after starting an antibiotic regimen. Some antibiotics that have been associated with C. diff infections include:
Risk Factors of C. Diff
Certain people are more at risk of getting infected with C. diff than others. At-risk people include:
- Those taking antibiotics that have been associated with C. diff infections
- People over 65
- Anyone who has just had an abdominal surgery
- Those with immune systems weakened by medication or a medical condition
- People taking proton pump inhibitor medication
- People suffering from inflammatory bowel disease
- Anyone with colorectal cancer
- Those who have had a C. diff infection, before
- Anyone who has stayed in a hospital for a long period of time
Symptoms of a C. Diff Infection
People suffering from a C. diff infection tend to have to following symptoms:
- Watery and sometimes bloody diarrhea, often three or more times every day
- Weight loss
- Lost appetite
- Abdominal cramping, swelling, and pain
- Kidney failure
C. diff infections can also cause other medical complications, some of which can be severe and potentially life-threatening:
- Colitis, or the inflammation of the colon
- Toxic megacolon, or an enlargement of the colon
- Sepsis, or an infection of the bloodstream
C. Diff in Philadelphia Hospitals
Hospital-acquired C. diff infections are some of the most common types of these conditions. This is because of the weakened immune systems that many patients have, the close proximity between sick and infirm people, and the high potential for the spread of C. diff spores if even a single hygienic mistake is made. C. diff infections spread rapidly in hospitals, as well, as a single infected staffer can spread C. diff to dozens of patients in a single day.
One study even found that 13% of patients who stay in the hospital for up to two weeks get C. diff infections, while half of patients who stay in the hospital longer than four weeks get infected.
Philadelphia-area hospitals have struggled to keep C. diff under control. One report from 2016 found that four Philadelphia area hospitals were below average when it came to C. diff infections:
- Hahnemann University Hospital
- Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
- Nazareth Hospital
- St. Mary Medical Center – Langhorne
Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian
If you have contracted a C. diff during your stay at a Philadelphia hospital, you could be entitled to compensation for your experience. There was often nothing that you could have done to prevent the infection, but you were still the one to pay for it. There is no reason why those costs should come out of your pocket.
The personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can help. Contact them online to get started on your case.