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Last Updated: Friday, 8 February 2008, 14:12 GMT
Hospital bug linked to 77 deaths
Clostridium difficile
C. difficile is largely recognised as a hospital-acquired infection
The hospital bug, Clostridium difficile, was mentioned on the death certificates of 77 people in Northern Ireland last year.

That figure, revealed by the Department of Health, is a rise of 14 from 2006. Thirty deaths were recorded in the last four months of 2007.

Health Minster Michael McGimpsey has announced 9m to tackle hospital bugs.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said staff concerns about cleanliness would be addressed.

In the last quarter of 2007, nine people at Antrim Area Hospital and five at Whiteabbey Hospital died from the hospital bug.

Between January and August last year, nine cases were recorded at the Antrim hospital whilst the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald recorded 10 cases.

Mr McGimpsey said that he realised that the current outbreak of the virulent 027 strain of C difficile in the Northern Trust was of great concern to the public.

C diff deaths: Sept - Dec '07
Altnagelvin - 1
Antrim - 9
Belfast City - 4
Causeway - 1
Craigavon - 2
Robinson Memorial - 1
Royal Victoria - 1
Ulster - 3
Whiteabbey - 5
All others - 3

The range of measures aimed at fighting bugs includes unannounced hygiene inspections, single rooms for new hospitals, a dress code for staff restrictions on hospital visiting and rapid response cleaning teams.

"It is clear that we can never fully eradicate infections such as MRSA and C diff. In the case of C difficile, around 30% of elderly people and some 3% of healthy young adults carry the bug," said Mr McGimpsey.

"However, by following robust and stringent infection control measures it is possible to reduce the rates of infection. That is why I have set the challenging target of a reduction in C diff by 20% by March 2009."

The C difficile bacterium causes diarrhoea and can even lead to a rupturing of the bowel. It tends to affect the over 65s.

The Northern Health Trust has recently identified a virulent strain called ribotype 027.

Dr Michael McBride said he was very concerned about the new strain.

"It is a strain which has caused outbreaks in North America, across Europe, Japan, England. This is the first time that we have seen it in Northern Ireland," he said.

"Healthcare staff, frontline staff and managment are doing all within their power to contain this new strain within the Northern Trust."

How Clostridium difficile affects the body

Bug outbreak linked to 16 deaths
22 Jan 08 |  Northern Ireland
Q&A: Clostridium difficile
19 Oct 07 |  Health
Quick guide: Hospital bugs
01 Nov 07 |  Health

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