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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 July 2007, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Hospital bugs thriving in Devon
Hospital ward
Keeping wards clean could stop superbugs from spreading
The number of superbug cases at most of Devon's main hospitals has gone up, with the government urging NHS Trusts to do more to tackle these infections.

There were 83 reported cases of the potentially more dangerous Clostridium difficile at Plymouth's acute hospitals between January and March.

This compares to 70 cases of the bug, which is potentially more dangerous than MRSA, in the previous year.

The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and South Devon Healthcare also saw rises.

But the number of cases at hospitals in North Devon fell from 86 to 25.

We can help combat C. difficile by wearing gloves and washing our hands
Professor Brian Duerden Department of Health

C. difficile usually affects the elderly, and can prove fatal if antibiotic treatment fails to kill all the spores in the gut, and they take hold again before the patient's own gut bacteria have had chance to mount a resistance.

A spokeswoman for Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust said the numbers for Plymouth included a proportion found in the community by GPs.

"Year on year cases of C. diff in patients at our hospitals have gone down from 240 in 2005 to 216 in 2006 and most recently, 212 in 2007," she told BBC News.

It is also very difficult to eradicate from the ward environment, which means it is easy for other patients to become infected.

However, there was better news with figures for MRSA at Devon's main hospitals either falling or remaining steady.

Plymouth's Derriford Hospital, the largest in the South West, said it's annual number of MRSA cases fell from 71 to 68 between 2006 and 2007.

The Royal Devon and Exeter says it is leading the way in tackling superbug problems with its "Clean your hands" campaign and says it is tackling this effectively at all levels.

C. difficile (Picture: Janice Carr/Centers for Disease Control)
C. difficile attacks the gut

The hospital adds the public are playing their part, responding well to the new visiting times, which allows housekeeping staff easier access to bed spaces for cleaning.

Professor Brian Duerden, an inspector at the Department of Health, said: "We can help combat C. difficile by issuing the appropriate antibiotics quickly, isolating patients once it's confirmed they have the superbug and by wearing gloves and washing our hands when arriving and leaving our hospitals."

In Torbay the hospital says it has invested more than 1m in the past year on isolation and hand washing facilities and expanded the screening of patients before admission to hospital.

The south Devon site is just one of 20 hospitals nationwide taking part in the Safer Patients Initiative.

MRSA 'superbugs'
24 Feb 05 |  J-M

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