Reporting Infectious Diseases

Health and Wellness

April 2, 2012 12:41 PM

The province is strengthening efforts to identify and monitor infectious diseases.

Clostridium difficile, commonly known as C. difficile, has been added to the list of notifiable diseases under the Health Protection Act, making all cases reportable by law as of April 1.

"Nova Scotians are concerned about C. difficile and I share their concerns," said Health and Wellness Minister Maureen MacDonald. "This will give us more information about how often and where C. difficile infections are occuring. By requiring reporting of this disease as soon as it occurs, we will be able to respond to outbreaks faster, which will help keep patients safe."

C. difficile is a type of bacteria that can cause mild to severe diarrhea and more serious intestinal conditions like inflammation of the colon, which can lead to serious illness or even death.

It is the most frequent cause of infectious diarrhea in Canadian hospitals and long-term care facilities. Over the past several years, there have been several severe outbreaks of C. difficile across Canada. In an effort to better understand risk patterns and trends in Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada added C. difficile to a list of nationally notifiable diseases in 2009.

"Making C. difficle reportable to public health will complement existing hospital-based surveillance programs and give us information about infections that may be occurring in the community so that we can ensure appropriate infection prevention and control measures are put in place to reduce the risk of outbreaks," said chief public health officer Dr. Robert Strang.

For healthy people, C. difficile does not typically pose a health risk. The elderly and those with other illnesses or who are taking antibiotics, are at a greater risk of infection.

Hand washing with soap and water is the most effective way of preventing the spread of infections like C. difficile. The risk of C. difficile can also be reduced through the careful use of antibiotics. When taking antibiotics, it is important to follow instructions from a doctor and the directions on the label. It is also important to follow infection prevention and control measures in hospitals, long-term care facilities and other health-care facilities.


FOR BROADCAST USE:

     The province has added C. difficle to a list of diseases

that must be reported to public health under the Health

Protection Act.

     C. difficile is one of the most common infections found in

hospitals and long-term care facilities. It is a type of

bacteria that usually causes mild to severe diarrhea, but can

lead to serious illness or even death.

     Health Minister Maureen MacDonald says the change will help

the province better identify and monitor C. difficle.
     
     The change came into effect April 1st.

-30-

Media Contact: Theresa Hawkesworth
              Health and Wellness
              902-424-6883
              Cell: 902-719-5004
              E-mail: Theresa.Hawkesworth@gov.ns.ca