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Poor hand hygiene caused C diff outbreak that claimed five lives

Poor hand hygiene has been blamed for a deadly outbreak of C diff which killed two patients and contributed to the deaths of three others.

An internal report into hygiene compliance at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee found that hand hygiene standards had dropped to 85% in the month before the strain of Clostridium difficile (C diff) took hold in the ward.

It also found that the 027 strain of the bug, which infected seven patients in total, “behaved in a very different way with rapid spread and high mortality”.

Two elderly patients died after contracting the bug during the outbreak on 19 October 2009 which is thought to have taken hold through damaged fabric and furniture in the ward.

The NHS Tayside report said that “the ward team worked on a number of initiatives to improve compliance” following the incident but admitted that it was “difficult to understand why in this instance there was continuing spread” of the C diff infection.

Readers' comments (3)

  • This is so frustrating to hear stories like this as it is 100% preventable. I am a student nurse and have witnessed on countless times where quite a few staff nurses did not wash their hands when entering the ward as well as between patient care.

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  • This is really true that if we do not do proper hand hygiene we can kill the patients.In my hospital we experienced an outbreak and lost four choldren.

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  • The lack of response in the comments here is symptomatic. Everyone should be writing to say that this is all wrong: those inside and outside the NHS.
    The point should be that the staff are employees and should do what they are instructed not, as almost seems to be the case in the debate about hygiene standards, that it is some sort of individual choice whether someone working with patients CHOOSES to keep clean or not.
    That there should be regular bacteriological testing of staff and those infected should be sent home loosing pay, is clearly what is needed. It is human nature that whatever the proceedure is, people will try to avoid doing it. This applies to many aspects of work in all walks of life. In the case of cleanliness in hospitals (and doctors sugeries), it doesn't require a degree to see it takes time and effort to repeateded, thoroughly wash hands and that this time spent on washing is time that takes up time in a working day that could be used for other chores such as the mountains of paper work. The logic is therefore to build in time for this hygiene maintenance.
    People tend not to wash their hands in everyday life, so why should we expect these very same people to suddenly be paragons of virtue once they done medical garb?
    Hospitals should look as if they are being cleaned. There should be staff constantly cleaning door handle and furniture. Doctors should be seen thoroughly washing hands between patients in A and E departments. No staff should handle paper work and then touch patients. Not even a pen.
    A culture has also developed where drugs have become so effective, prevention has become secondary to treatment once infection has set in. It's easier that way.
    It also needs to be said that superbugs are the result of killing off the weak bateria in populations leaving the strong to reproduce.

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