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J Hosp Infect. 1994 May;27(1):1-15.

Management and control of a large outbreak of diarrhoea due to Clostridium difficile.

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Department of Microbiology, North Manchester General Hospital, Crumpsall, UK.


In the six-month period 1 November 1991 to 1 May 1992 175 patients developed diarrhoea due to Clostridium difficile in three hospitals in Manchester, UK. Most patients (90%) were over 60 years old and had been admitted to acute geriatric or medical wards with other illnesses. Infection is thought to have contributed to 17 deaths. Twenty-two patients relapsed clinically after antibiotic treatment. The outbreak began in one ward and affected 15 patients and two nurses. During the following months cases occurred on 34 wards. The pattern of spread suggested that a ward index case was followed by several secondary cases. Pyrolysis mass spectrometry showed that 79% of isolates of C. difficile belong to a single cluster and this putative outbreak strain also extensively colonizes the hospital environment. It was also responsible for a smaller outbreak in 1991 and many 'sporadic' cases in our hospitals before then. An outbreak control team was convened at an early stage and expert opinion co-opted. Infection control measures included: intensive education of staff; increased vigilance; strict enteric precautions; cohort nursing in a designated ward; rigorous cleaning procedures including emptying and 'deep' cleaning of wards where several cases had occurred; restriction of staff and patient movement; and restriction of antibiotic use. Subsequent to these measures there has been a substantial and sustained decrease in the number of new cases.

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