Nova Scotia

C. difficile linked to Cape Breton death

The Cape Breton District Health Authority says a C. difficile bacterial infection was a contributing factor in the death of a palliative care patient.

The Cape Breton District Health Authority says a C. difficile bacterial infection was a contributing factor in the death of a palliative care patient.

Clostridium difficile has now been identified as a contributing factor in the deaths of five patients with underlying medical issues. Six new in-patient cases have been diagnosed in recent days, bringing the total to 26.

C. difficile usually occurs in patients who take regular antibiotics. The bacteria grow in the large bowel and cause diarrhea and serious intestinal conditions. Very sick patients are most at risk.

The Cape Breton District Health Authority has been limiting visitors to affected hospitals, asking many people to wear gloves and gowns to try to limit the spread of the infection.

Greg Boone, a spokesman for the health authority, said it has been difficult to get the message through to some people.

"We are concerned that on occasion, there have been staff and physicians and visitors who are not following the precautions," Boone told CBC News on Tuesday.

"We're working extra hard to make sure they understand the seriousness of this and to make sure that they comply with all the precautions in place."

Under the visitor restrictions, only two immediate family members are allowed to visit inpatients. The visitors are not permitted to go from room to room, visiting other people.

Boone said the new cases were not a surprise, and they will likely be dealing with the spread of the bacterial infection for several more weeks.

"It's unfortunate that we're seeing new cases, but it's not unexpected. From the beginning we explained that the number of inpatient cases rise and fall and there could be additional deaths."

Enhanced cleaning is continuing in some patient rooms, clinical areas and on some equipment, while additional staff has been put in place to help.

Visitor restrictions will remain in place at all district hospitals, community health centres and continuing care units for at least another month.

With files from The Canadian Press

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