COSTA RICA HEALTH NEWS — The bacterium Clostridium difficile (C. difficile or C. diff) has reached epidemic proportions at Puntarenas’ Monseñor Sanabria Hospital, the Caja Costarricesence de Seguro Social  (CCSS) or “Caja”  warned this week.

Individual, drumstick-shaped C. difficile bacilli seen through scanning electron microscopy
Individual, drumstick-shaped C. difficile bacilli seen through scanning electron microscopy

The State health services says it has sent to the hospital a team of specialists from the Epidemiological Surveillance, to analyze the factors that affected the increase in cases.

C. difficile is caused by an infection by the C. difficile bacteria. Primary risk factors are exposure to antibiotics, exposure to a healthcare environment, and acid-suppressing medications. In small numbers, C. difficile does not result in significant disease. Some research suggests the overuse of antibiotics in the raising of livestock is contributing to outbreaks of bacterial infections such as C. difficile.

The illness is especially dangerous to patients of advanced age.

Meanwhile, 2,000 children per week are being admitted to hospitals due to a an outbreak of a respiratory virus. The number has risen with the beginning of the rainy season.

Director at the Puntarenas hospital, Dr. Randall Alvarez, told La Nacion that 51 cases of the C.diff bacteria have been identified this year and it has caused 22 fatalities. Currently one patient was isolated due to the illness and the hospital has raised its hygienic measures to combat the spread of the disease.

C.diffcauses severe diarrhea which opens the door to such intestinal illnesses as colitis. It is often found in hospitals, said Alvarez, and would not be serious if it did not prey on the aged who usually have chronic health complaints.

Just this month, six cases have been treated at Puntarenas hospital with four released after treatment. Another patient, weakened by the illness, died of a pre-existing condition. The worst month was September when a dozen cases were treated.

But Alvarez said the rest of the patients — and their families — should not worry about contagion since the hospital personnel are all aware of the possibility and are taking steps to prevent it. Between August and September, an outbreak at the hospital in Nicoya registered six cases. Last year the bacteria was found in two Central Valley hospitals.

Persistent Virus — Meanwhile, the National Children’s Hospital has its own worries as a respiratory virus that should have peaked and run its course has been persistent with 2,000 kids per month being treated. So far this year, more than 7,000 kids were treated in the hospital’s emergency section.

Hospital administrators say the toll for this year will probably surpass the 7,424 patients treated by November, 2013. The virus has stretched the children’s hospital emergency section by 200% this year. Usually the hospital has four beds reserved for emergency patients but another eight were pressed into use.

The intensive care unit of the hospital that has the eight extra beds usually reserves 27 beds for respiratory ills but has found 75% of those beds filled with the virus patients, some on mechanical aids to sustain their breathing.

In 2013, nearly 3,000 children were hospitalized and another 100,000 treated, half of them for infections of the initial respiratory virus. This is the disease blamed for the deaths of a dozen patients so far this year. So far this year, nearly 40 have died, contrasted with last year’s toll of 67.

With notes from Nacion.com, iNews.co.cr, Wikipedia