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RCH ward closed by C. difficile outbreak

A ward at Royal Columbian Hospital was closed to admitting new patients this week because of a C. difficile outbreak.

The move comes in the wake of last week's closure of another RCH ward hit by a superbug.

Fraser Health spokeswoman Tasleem Juma confirmed at least three patients in T5S, a general medical ward, had contracted C. difficile. Outbreaks are declared when three or more patients are determined to have the bacteria that causes diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. While those patients have been isolated, Fraser Health is still allowing visitors—as long as they do the appropriate handwashing. Other patients in the unit who don't have it can be discharged.

Juma said the patients have their own medical and cleaning staff to ensure the bacteria doesn't spread.

It is the first outbreak of C. difficile at RCH since May of last year. Juma said Fraser Health has been successful in trying to reduce outbreaks with increased deep cleaning of units and promotion of hand washing. She noted C. difficile rates across Fraser Health have dropped by about 40 per cent going from 11.3 cases per 10,000 patient days in 2011-12 to 4.1.

Juma said it is hoped if no new cases come along the hospital will be able to reopen the ward by Monday or Tuesday.

However, the isolation of patients in Ward 5 North at RCH who have come down with CPE, a hard-to-treat superbug resistant to many of medicine's most powerful antibiotics, continues. The patients were separated from the rest of the ward, which houses patients with complex cases, on Feb. 3. Since CPE moves slowly it will take a few weeks before Fraser Health can declare the outbreak is over, said Juma.

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