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Elderly patient’s death ‘directly linked’ to C. difficile, hospital official says

Another death has been tied to the outbreak of a dangerous superbug in Ontario hospitals.

A spokesman for Guelph General Hospital said an elderly patient's death on Saturday is "directly linked" to C. difficile, a bacterial disease that attacks the lining of the gut and can cause severe diarrhea in some patients. Elderly patients and those on antibiotics are at the greatest risk.

It's the second time a patient with C. difficile has died at the Guelph hospital in recent months, Perry Hagerman said. Two more patients at the hospital tested positive for the disease over the weekend.

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At least 25 patients with C. difficile have died in recent months in Ontario hospitals.

The news comes one day after the Ministry of Health announced the number of hospitals in outbreak had dropped from 10 to seven. Lennox and Addington General Hospital in Napanee, Toronto East General Hospital and the Juravinski Hospital of Hamilton Health Sciences are now off the outbreak list.

Most of the deaths linked with C. difficile have occurred in three hospitals in the Niagara Health System. A spokeswoman from the system, which serves 434,000 people in a dozen communities, said there were no new cases of C. difficile at the hospitals on Monday.

Dr. Joanna Hope, interim chief of staff for the Niagara Health System, attributed the news to heightened vigilance on the part of hospital staff in wearing their own protective equipment and making sure patients and visitors wash their hands.

"I think that's the major contributing cause for why the numbers are looking as reasonable as they are," she said in a conference call with reporters on Monday.

Hospitals are expected to go 30 days without a new case of hospital-acquired C. difficile before declaring an outbreak over.

Speaking in a press conference on Sunday, health officials urged people not to stay away from hospitals if they require treatment.

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"What you should be focused on is making sure the precautions are being taken," said Dr. Vivek Goel, CEO and president of Public Health Ontario.

The Ontario hospitals still experiencing an outbreak of C. difficile are St. Catharines General, the Welland site of the Niagara Health System, Greater Niagara General in Niagara Falls, Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Hospital in St. Catharines, Headwaters Health Centre in Orangeville, Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, and Guelph General Hospital.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Kim Mackrael has been a reporter for The Globe and Mail since 2011. She joined the Ottawa bureau Sept. 2012. More

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