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New fears of 'fatal bug' threat

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« on: August 04, 2007, 07:20:20 am »

 New fears of 'fatal bug' threat

A further 32,707 cases in Scotland and Wales were not reported to the Health Protection Agency (HPA) because it only covers England , the MP says in the report C-Difficile - The Complete Germ Map of Britain.

Figures he obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that C.difficile infects more than eight times as many people in British hospitals as MRSA and kills twice as many.

The infection causes diarrhoea ranging from mild cases to severe illness and can be fatal. Elderly patients treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics are at the greatest risk.

This first comprehensive study of the bug across Britain reveals the "true extent" and "shocking reality" of the C.difficile epidemic in British hospitals, the MP claims.

He said: "This investigation reveals that the number of C-Diff cases in Britain 's hospitals has been dramatically underestimated with the Government simply ignoring anyone who contracts the infection, but happens to be under the age of 65.

"I'm calling on the Government to recognise and then get to grips with the true scale of the problem.

"The Government is constantly trying to convince us that the NHS is safe in their hands, but C-Diff infections continue to rise across the entire age range and are up by over 40% in the last three years alone."

He added: "It is an absolute scandal that I had to go these lengths to get the true figures revealed."

Cases of MRSA are around 7,000 a year and falling, but figures show C.difficile is a growing problem as the rate of infections continues to soar, his study claims.

There were 66,005 more cases last year compared to 47,034 in 2004 and official figures for 2006 show 4,752 people died from it - compared to 1,774 from MRSA .

This is a rise of 25% on the previous year and a massive increase of 111% since 2004, with 181 cases now a day, the report says.

Over the past three years, 176,450 have contracted the bug after going into hospitals for routine procedures.

The HPA's previous requirement for statistics only in the over-65s meant more than 25,000 were not officially recorded between 2004 and 2006, according to the study.

Mandatory surveillance of the infection was introduced in England in 2004 but it was only in April this year that Acute NHS Trusts were told to report all cases to the HPA, it says.

Reporting cases of C.difficile in Scotland and Wales was voluntary until recently but there is still an upward trend in the number of infections. There were around 5,000 in Scotland in 2005, a 21% increase on the previous year, the study shows.

A mandatory surveillance system is currently being introduced but will only apply to over-65s. In Wales , a mandatory system has been in operation since January 2005 but again only applies to the over-65s.

Mr Shapps used Freedom of Information requests to every Acute Trust in England to obtain the results of all reported C.difficile cases.

Desk research was used to get the figures for Scotland and Wales .
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