The distraught widow of one of 17 recent victims of a virulent stomach superbug plans to sue. In news reports about the outbreak of antibiotic-resistant Clostridium difficile at the James Paget Hospital in Norfolk, England, she said her husband would still be alive if the administrators had been willing to admit to the outbreak. She is angry at their secrecy. One expert sees secrecy as one of the risk factors in hospital-acquired infections, which are largely preventable.
According to This is London, Mavis Burton-Pye insists her husband, Leslie, would not have entered the hospital if he had been aware of the outbreak that had started several months earlier.
A report on the outbreak by Sky News noted that the Norfolk hospital is not the first to be hit by C.difficile, which killed at least 33 people at a hospital in Buckinghamshire, England, between 2003 and 2005.
So-called superbugs are microorganisms that have become resistant to antibiotics, a problem generally blamed on overuse of the drugs. C.difficile targets elderly patients in particular. Another of the superbugs, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), is often undetected in carriers because they can be symptom-free. It flourishes in hospitals and lies in wait for patients with weakened immune systems. Easily transmitted by touch, the bacteria can infect surgical incisions, open wounds such as bedsores, or enter the body via urinary catheters and similar equipment.
According to government sources, some 2 million people each year pick up an infection during a stay in a US hospital, and 90,000 of them die. In Canada 8,000 of 200,000 hospital-infected patients die, and in Britain the figure is 5,000 deaths out of 70,000 incidents.
According to a February 2007 article in The Ergonomics
Report™, a publication for subscribers with a professional interest in human factors, several countries have reduced the risk factors for superbug infections. It notes, however, that in the United States, Canada and Britain the problem is getting worse.
In The Netherlands, Denmark and Finland