Each year, a deadly bacteria kills thousands of people. It's called C. diff and it is especially dangerous for anyone who is hospitalized.
Health care providers are doing their best to prevent it. But if you, or a loved one is hospitalized, there are important steps you can take too -- to keep C. diff away.
"A hospital is a place that you need to be if you're really sick. But if you don't need to be there, you don't want to be there," says Emergency Department physician Dr. Kevin Klauer.
Channel 3's Robin Swoboda recently met with Dr. Klauer to talk about the serious threat that hospital infections can pose.
"Despite the efforts that hospitals take, Robin, it's one of the places that has more bacteria running around than anywhere else," Dr. Klauer says, adding that bacteria are of more concern to them than viruses.
There are many different types of bacteria, but right now, C.diff is causing some of the greatest concern.
"Chlorrimidium diffisus. Some people call it C. diff or pseudomembrane collitus. It causes horrible inflamation of the colon, your gastrointestinal tract, causing horrible diarrhea that you can't get rid of," Dr. Klauer explains. It can be deadly.
"Up to 14,000 deaths a year due to this. Can you imagine having diarrhea bad enough that it kills you?" Dr. Klauer adds.
"It's tough to kill the C. diff germs, which can live for many days on surfaces in a hospital room," Robin said. "When I did this interview with Dr. Klauer a few days ago, I had no idea that this story would become so personal and possibly save my 76-year-old mother's life."
"She's just been admitted to the hospital, and instead of taking her flowers or candy, I'm taking her antiseptic wipes to clean surfaces like the phone, table tops and especially television remote controls. Helpful yes, but there is no better defense than handwashing. It's the one thing you can do to stop bacteria and viruses in their tracks."
"It's the simple things we take for granted, but we can't take them for granted anymore because we can really prevent a lot of disease by hand washing," Dr. Klauer says.
If you are in the hospital insist that anyone who enters your room, whether visitor or hospital staff, wash their hands before coming in.
Medical gloves can offer a false sense of security. If the staff members' hands weren't washed before they put them on, the gloves are likely contaminated.
Tips on how to stave off hospital infections