This photograph depicts Clostridium difficile colonies after 48hrs growth.

This photograph depicts Clostridium difficile colonies after 48hrs growth.

Bacterial outbreak at Langley Memorial Hospital

Fraser Health blog describes ‘chronically high levels’ of C. difficile

An outbreak of C. difficile bacteria has closed a 40-bed ward at Langley Memorial Hospital to new admissions.

The Fraser Health Authority announced the outbreak in the 4-south medicine unit online, saying a halt to admissions and transfers has been ordered unless “medically warranted.”

Four patients were diagnosed with the bacteria.

One has recovered and has gone home.

The ward was not expected to open to new patients until Sept. 1 at the earliest.

The Clostridium difficile bacteria usually affects people on antibiotics.

It can cause bloating, diarrhea and sometimes-severe abdominal pain. In some cases it can be life-threatening.

In June of last year, a health authority blog praised staff in 4-south for tackling what were described as “chronically high levels of C. difficile” in the unit.

According to the blog, C. difficile is a problem at Langley Memorial because of the hospital’s age and number of patients.

“As an older facility, there are not as many sinks for hand cleaning and like others in the region, capacity issues pose added challenges,” the blog said, adding that while 4-south is a 40-bed unit, it often cares for 48 patients at a time.

Staff decided to have a C-diff Awareness Month in April, posting signs and wearing yellow ‘Stop C-diff Now’ T-shirts. Patients were discouraged from receiving flowers and other gifts to help create a cleaner environment, and were asked to clean their hands before each meal.

The campaign was considered a success because there were no new cases of C. difficile during one week in April, “which had been almost unheard of,” the blog noted.

Because many C-difficile cases occur outside the hospital, nurses on the unit now ask emergency staff if an admitted patient has diarrhea, so screening tests can be ordered.