MP's killer bug claim

HUNDREDS of cases of the potentially-killer bug Clostridium-difficile at the region's hospitals have been ignored by Government statistics, it is claimed.

HUNDREDS of cases of the potentially-killer bug Clostridium-difficile at the region's hospitals have been ignored by Government statistics, it is claimed.

Nearly 730 of all cases of the infection over the last three years have gone unreported because the Government only logs those in the over-65s, according to the study by Tory MP Grant Shapps.

C-Difficile - The Complete Germ Map of Britain - shows there were more than 6,800 cases in East Anglian patients of all ages between 2004 and 2007.

And it shows the growing threat of C-diff in the region's hospitals, with the total number of cases increasing by 37 per cent in the three years.

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.

Earlier this year, the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston revealed 18 deaths had been related to C-diff in an outbreak starting in December and now over.

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The figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that C-diff infects more than eight times as many people in British hospitals as MRSA and kills twice as many.

Mr Shapps, MP for Welwyn Hatfield 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.”

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 in those aged over two to the Health Protection Agency.

Dr Caroline Barker, infection control doctor for West Suffolk Hospital, disputed the figures.

She said: “We have a broad testing policy. We cannot comment about whether the testing strategy is the same in other trusts. It is unclear whether the figures presented by the MP refer to the number of people with C-diff, the total numbers of positive test results or, indeed, some other definition of a 'case'. His numbers are likely to reflect the total numbers of positive test results and not patients.”

She said the hospital regularly reviewed cleaning, isolation and antibiotic prescribing policies to tackle the problem.

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