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Please, Wash Your Hands


Approximately 13 out of every 1,000 hospitalized patients are infected with Clostridium difficile (C. diff), a new study reports.

The study, by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), surveyed 12,000 patients in 648 medical facilities. Nearly 1,500 patients (12.5%) were identified with C. diff, a bacterium that causes diarrhea and more serious intestinal conditions. The occurrence rate was between 6.5 and 20 times higher than previous estimates.

Infection control is a part of hospitalist training, however, preventive efforts have been stagnant, says William Ford, MD, section chief of hospital medicine for Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia. Temple already has begun answering APIC's call for intensified infection control with a hand washing outreach protocol. Over a two-month period, hospitalists volunteered to administer five-minute PowerPoint presentations to the nursing staff during all shifts, reminding staff of the importance of washing their hands for at least 30 seconds with warm water and soap, and using friction when doing so.

The hospital has implemented a poster campaign with photos and step-by-step instructions regarding the proper hand-washing technique.

Although some disagree, hand washing has been shown to decrease the transmission of nosocomial infections, Dr. Ford says. "Hand washing," he says, "is the first line of defense for C. diff infections."

The study will be published in the January issue of American Journal of Infection Control.

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