The rate of infection for C. difficile bacteria tripled at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre in Moncton last month partly because chronic care patients can't get into nursing homes, say doctors.

Dr. Richard Garceau said C. difficile spreads by spores and is highly contagious. Symptoms of the sometimes-fatal bacteria include watery diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, nausea and abdominal pain or tenderness.

"We've decided to clean the emergency room over the weekend as the number of persons presenting to the emergency is lower during [the] holidays," said Garceau.

Floors, walls, beds and curtains will be washed down with chlorine. Garceau said extra teams of cleaners will work day and night to scrub the emergency room.

Frequent hand washing with warm, soapy water is considered the best defence against the infection.

Dr. Louise Thibault, the head of microbiology and infectious diseases at the hospital, said patients are on stretchers in corridors.

She said contagion is a problem at the overcrowded emergency room as C. difficile preys on the elderly and the weak.

"When you have a lot of patients in a very crowded environment it's harder to do the cleaning even if people try to do [their ] best. It’s harder to eradicate," she said.

Thibault said some patients can't get into rooms with washrooms and sinks because one third of the acute care beds are actually filled with chronic care patients who can't find spaces in nursing homes.

Thibault said unless it is urgent people should look for alternatives before heading to the emergency room.